Skip to main content

 Breaking the Lease 

 

SPOTLIGHT

Abandoning the Premises

Once a tenant has signed a lease, he has committed himself to payment of full rent for the duration of the lease. He can, indeed, "skip town" leaving his roommates (who are "jointly and severally responsible") to pay his rent; but such an action is inadvisable, since the tenant: (a) takes unfair advantage of his roommates trust in him, (b) forfeits his security deposit and last month's rent and (c) leaves himself open to a lawsuit for collection of remaining unpaid rent.

Violation of Laws and Ordinances

The tenant may be able to break his lease if his housing facility does not meet with state and local building codes, health requirements or zoning ordinances. In such cases, the tenant should notify the building or health inspector who will determine if a health or safety hazard exists.

Breach of Contract

The law will allow a tenant to escape legal liability by breaking the lease when the landlord has committed a substantial breach of contract or has violated city, state or federal law. In all such cases, the tenant should seek legal advice before taking any action, but should avoid delay. If the tenant does not, within a reasonable time, complain to the landlord about events causing the breach of the lease, the law may consider the landlord's breach as having been waived or consented to by the tenant's non-action.

Underage Tenants

If a tenant signs a lease without an adult co-signer while the tenant is under eighteen years of age, he cannot be held legally responsible for the lease. But, he probably can be held legally responsible for payment of rent and obedience to lease conditions during the time that he actually lives in the dwelling. In other words, though the law in this area is rather ambiguous, it is likely that an underage tenant can break a lease. If the tenant turns eighteen after signing the lease, he can disaffirm the lease within a "reasonable time" but he can "thereafter" be held responsible. In this case, as well as most others, a tenant wishing to break his lease should contact a lawyer.