What to do if my wife and I want to break lease a month early without paying due to our landlord’s negligence?

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What to do if my wife and I want to break lease a month early without paying due to our landlord’s negligence?

We have a little over a month left in our lease and want out. There was a pretty bad water leak above us and resulted in some pretty serious damage and mold. We called up there several times and nothing was done. I decided to call a codes inspector..only then did they come down. I asked them to help with some compensation and they said no. Why should I pay full price for this. Can I leave a month early without paying? I don’t want it to affect my credit; I worked hard to keep it good.

Asked on March 20, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A significant water leak can sometimes be a violation of the implied warranty of habitability, or the obligation that all rental premises be fit for their intended purpose. This can result in grounds to terminate a lease early without penalty, if the landlord had received notice of the problem and a chance to correct it, but failed to do so; or to receive monetary compensation for the time you lived with the condition or for damage/costs you incurred.

If the leak had persisted for some time and/or had caused damage to your belongings or which you had to pay to remediate, you should speak with a landlord-tenant attorney about possibly bringing a cause of action to recover compensation, as well as about how to terminate your lease safely. (Trying to terminate early but  doing it incorrectly can leave you liable to the landlord.)

On the other hand, if you have suffered damages or costs and just want to leave one month early, it's probably best to not do this. The reason is, if you withhold a month's rent or leave without paying the last month, the landlord will presumably take it out of your security deposit. If you then want to recover it, you'd have to sue the landlord, which is not likely to be cost effective for one month's rent.


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