When can you break a lease?

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When can you break a lease?

We entered into a lease knowing there were issues with the house. In the lease it was specified that the landlord was to fix the problems. There is no insulation in the house. He told us the electric bill averaged $400; it was $888. The basement floods by coming up through the floor; it has destroyed 2 $1600 computers. The kitchen ceiling leaks so severely that it has fallen onto a brand new stove and damaged it. It is affecting the health of all of our family. What can we do?

Asked on April 28, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) For any repairs which were listed in the lease, if the landlord has not made them, you can sue for breach of contract (that's what a lease is: a contract) and seek either damages (i.e. money) or, if the issues are serious enough and go to whether you would have rented in the first place, they might provide grounds to terminate the lease legally.

2) Also, all leases have an "implied warranty of habitability," which means the premises must be safely inhabitable. Issues that affect habitability (e.g. a collapsing ceiling) may give rise, under this warranty, to grounds for damages, to terminate, or to force the landlord to make repairs.

3) You may be able to sue the landlord for damaged caused by his negligent (or intentional) bad maintence.

4) If  the landlord knowingly deceived you when you rented, that may be fraud, which would be yet another ground for either seeking damages or rescinding the lease.

From what you write, you have legal recourse. However, since exercising your rights improperly (e.g. without the proper notice and opportunity for the landlord to "cure" the problem) can result in you being liable to the landlord, you should consult with an attorney, who can advise and represent you in enforcing your rights.


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