If a landlord fails to make a promised repair, is that grounds for a tenant to break their lease?

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If a landlord fails to make a promised repair, is that grounds for a tenant to break their lease?

My best friend rented a mobile home with the understanding that the central A/C was scheduled for repair. It was not repaired. Instead the manager installed a window unit in the kitchen and told my friend that it was sufficient. It does not cool the bedroom, as there is no air circulation. He was told to leave it running 24 hours a day. But they don’t pay the electric bill, my friend does. They have given him excuse after excuse about why it’s not fixed and his bedroom continues to be worse than a sauna. Does he have grounds to break his lease?

Asked on August 8, 2011 Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

This MAY be grounds to break his lease; it certainly is grounds to sue for compensation.

If there was an agreement to provide central A/C, and if the central A/C is not provided, that is  breach of the agreement. That breach allows a suit for compensation--essentially, the difference in value between the rental with central A/C and the rental without (and/or compenation for extra electrial costs).

It would only allow the tenant to terminate the lease without penalty if the breach is sufficiently "material" (or important) of if the lack of central A/C makes the premises effectively uninhabitable. That depends on how bad  the premises is without central A/C. Your friend should consult with an attorney to discuss these issues. Good luck to him.


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