What are my rights concerning a lease when my family and I had to evacuate due to substandard conditions?

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What are my rights concerning a lease when my family and I had to evacuate due to substandard conditions?

We rented a home and signed a 1 year lease. Upon the weather change, we noticed ice forming inside the windows. I notified the landlord’s management company but nothing was done. I have pictures of ice and snow in my daughter’s room as well as ice forming on the ceilings and walls. This is with the heat on all of the time and my gas bill increased $90 in 1 month to accommodate this issue. Health issues with all family members began; then mold started appearing seeping through the walls and forming along all baseboards. It is everywhere; we evacuated.

Asked on January 26, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Idaho

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, every lease has what is known as an "implied warranty of habitability".  Since there are mold and heating issues, one of the remedies for a breach such as this is to allow a tenant to terminate their lease.  Additionally, since your landlord has failed to provide adequate heat to your rental to the point that you were forced to move, this is also a caseof "constructive eviction".  Basically this means that if a tenant must vacate their unit because due to health or safety conditions, they may have a legal claim for any costs that they incur (hotel expenses; extra travel time; storing belongings; etc.).  Additionally, there is the potential for you to recover your attorney's fees.  You may also be entitled to other remedies, depending upon specific state law. 

At this point, you should consult with a tenant's rights group or an attorney specializing in landlord tenant law.  If money is an issue for you, see if you qualify for representation by Legal Aid.  If not, check to see if there is a law school nearby to where you live; they typically run free/low cost clinics that handle these type cases.  You can also contact the local Bar Association in your county; they may have a list of attorneys who will take your case "pro bono" (for free) or at least for a reduced fee based on your income/circumstances.


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