Can I brake my lease if I rented a house a month ago and have had several major plumbing issues?

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Can I brake my lease if I rented a house a month ago and have had several major plumbing issues?

The first issue was 5 days after I moved in. My landlord ran a snake and “fixed” the problem. Now we have raw sewage coming up the front yard and the showers will not drain. You can smell the sewage in the house. I contacted my landlord 2 weeks ago via text message about the problem. He told me he is out of town, if it is an issue I need to fix it. I told him I was not going to touch the plumbing. The city was notified 9 days ago and told my landlord he has a certain amount of time to get the issue fixed before our utilities are cut off. He again texted me and told me to fix the issue. I am sending a certified letter today. When can I break the lease?

Asked on July 2, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Texas


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Residential leases contain something�known as�an "implied warranty of habitability", which is a kind of guarantee. What it means is in which that a landlord must give their tenant a safe and sanitary place to live. If they do not, then the landlord is in breach of the lease.

You could break your lease by claiming "constructive eviction". This occurs when a when a condition exists on a rental property that makes it impossible or extremely difficult to live there. In other words, the property is "uninhabitable." And raw sewage on the premises is a serious health issue. You'll have to send a notice to your landlord and tell them tht if the problem is not remedied, then you are moving out. There are more steps to the process; it varies from state-to-state.

You also have the option to:

  1. repair and deduct (fix the problem and subtract the cost from your rent); or
  2. withhold your rent until�your landlord repairs the problem; or
  3. break your lease (you need court approval for this; see below).

In order to break your lease as per #3 above, you can't just leave. You'll need to go to housing court and ask to file an action for the breach of the warranty of habitability. The court will then allow the landlord to repair the problem; you may be relocated until it is fixed. If they cannot remedy the situation, you can ask that the court to terminate the lease.

At this point, since you must follow all legal procesures reagrding all of this, you should speak directly with an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant cases. Also, there may be a tenants' rights group in your area who can be of help.

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 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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