Can we get out ofour lease ifthe landlord misled us about the cost of heating the house?

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Can we get out ofour lease ifthe landlord misled us about the cost of heating the house?

Before we signed the lease, our landlord told us that the cost of heating the rental home in the winter was “not that bad”. After moving in, we are having to pay $700 per month to heat the uninsulated home with fuel oil (no natural gas), and it is still cold. Now we can barely afford to pay the rent each month. Can we break the lease without being responsible for the remainder of the term?

Asked on February 9, 2012 under Real Estate Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

No, you most likely cannot get out of the lease on this basis, unfortunately. The law allows someone to rescind or terminate a contract (which is what a lease is) if there is fraud: fraud is a material (or important) misrepresentation--so, some lie about a fact--which is knowingly made, on which the other party relies, and on which it is reasonable for someone to rely. The comment you describe, however:

1) Is not a misrepresentation--it is a vague opinion, and there's no way to prove the landlord intentionally lied; for all you know, he thinks that paying $700/month is "not that bad."

2) Is not  something it was reasonable to rely on, both because it is an opinion and because it is not definite--since "not that bad" could mean anything, it is not reasonable to rely on that statement.

3) In regards to the reasonableness of relying on the statement, a party may not simply rely on a statement when it would be easy to verify; you could have asked to have seen heating bills, statements from the oil company, etc. prior to renting, which would have given you a solid and reasonable basis for making a decision about heating costs and whether to rent.


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