Yikes! You’ve found yourself in a situation where you are really steamed at your landlord. Not only is the guy a real jerk, but he’s not fixing things and the apartment isn’t quite as you believed it would be.
Just because a landlord is obnoxious or not doing things the way you think they should be done, however, doesn’t mean you have the right to break your lease.
So, in what circumstances can you break a lease? The law varies by state, according to Erin Leigh with 407apartments.com, an apartment hunting service for the Orlando area, but here are a few that she noted generally apply to most cases:
Serious damage. If your apartment becomes seriously damaged to the point where it is “uninhabitable,” you generally have the legal right to break your lease. However, you can’t be the party responsible for causing the damage. Natural disaster, crime, or someone else’s accident are valid reasons for breaking a lease.
You are called to active military duty. In many states, you are allowed to break your lease when you discover you are deploying for military duty or are relocated for your position. However, you must have signed the lease prior to learning about your relocation.
Your health has taken a dramatic turn for the worse. In some but not all states, you can break your lease without penalty if you suddenly become afflicted with a very serious health condition. The rule may also apply if you suddenly need to move into an assisted living facility.
Your landlord fails to meet the obligations required by law. If you make timely requests for a needed repair and your landlord constantly ignores you or delays making the fix, you may be able to break your lease. However, you should have documentation that you have made these requests and have sent them by certified mail to ensure your landlord receives them.
Your landlord invades your privacy. In most states, landlords are required to give you 24 hours’ notice prior to entering your apartment, unless he or she needs to make an urgent repair or in the case of an emergency. Also, if he or she fails to intervene in the event of routinely obnoxious neighbors, you may also be able to break your lease.
You quit a job on the premises. This one is a little more rare, but if you are a resident manager or repairman living in the buildling, quitting the job may result in your ability to break your lease.
An illegal unit. If a basement, garage, or other structure is converted into rentable property but is not done so according to law, you may have the ability to end your lease.
Government condemnation. If any of a number of regulatory issues is ignored by your property’s landlord, the government may choose to condemn the building. If the building is condemned, you have the right to vacate without penalty.
If you have issues or concerns, Leigh said, be sure to raise them with your landlord in a calm, direct way. If he or she repeatedly ignores the issue, then you may have good cause to break your lease.