If a tenant breaks their lease, what actions can the landlord take against them?

UPDATED: Aug 5, 2011

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If a tenant breaks their lease, what actions can the landlord take against them?

One of my friends came to town and signed a lease for a rental house. However he felt unsafe because there were some threatening type people living there. When he would come back from work at night cars stopped him and harrassed him. He made several complaints with his landlord. So can he break the lease and rent a new house? Can the landlord take legal action? If he goes to court what are the possibilities?

Asked on August 5, 2011 Connecticut


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If the threats against him were made by other tenants in the premises/building, then it may be that your friend can break the lease due to violations of his right to quiet enjoyment--the actions of other tenants, which are in this regard chargeable to the landlord (since the landlord may take action against tenants who disturb the peace) are making it impossible for  your friend to "enjoy" or use the property he rented. He should still speak with an attorney before taking any action, since breaking a lease when you don't have proper grounds or in an improper way can result in the tenat being liable for ALL rent due under the lease (e.g. for the entire year).

On the other hand, if the problem people are not other tenants--e.g. it's just a bad neighborhood--or if the threats are made by other tenants off-site--where the landlord has no right to control them--then your friend probably has no right to break the lease. (Though, if the problem is non-tenants, then if the building is not adequately secured--no locking front door, not enough light, etc.--your friend may still have grounds to leave.) Basically, the landlord must be doing something wrong--such as by allowing other tenants to distrub the peace in the building, or not providing reasonable security--for there to be grounds to break the lease without penalty. Otherwise, as noted, improperly breaking a lease can result in being liable for all remaining rent.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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