If I live in a very unhealthy apartment, how can I legally break my lease?

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If I live in a very unhealthy apartment, how can I legally break my lease?

It has many faults that I asked to have fixed before we moved but never were. The 2 main doors to the apartment do not fully reach the floor so we get massive amounts of bugs and huge red spiders in our rooms, not to mention a very cold breeze. The carpets were poorly cleaned and the whole apartment smelled like carpet cleaner for months. The fact is, that my son is premature and has respritory problems and I can’t bring him home to this place. If I did I would be putting his health and esentially his life at risk. He was 3 months premature. I need out of this lease without killing my credit and breaking my wallet.

Asked on November 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Every residential lease contains what is known an "implied warranty of habitability". This warranty requires a landlord to maintain a rental premises in a habitable (i.e. safe and sanitary) condition. This is accomplished by complying with all local and/or state housing codes. Conditions such as you describe, may constitue a breach of that warranty since they potentially pose a health risk.

In such a situation, a tenant must notify their landlord of the problem (which you have already done). The landlord is then required to respond within a reasonable time and take the the steps necessary to resolve the problem. If the landlord fails to take action, then the tenant can choose to do any 1 of the following: they can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent; they can move out and terminate their lease (which also terminates their rental obligation for the balance of the term); or if they stay, they can withhold rent and defend against eviction.

Also, the tenant can contact the local housing code enforcement authority, who can bring an action against the landlord for violation of the housing code and compel the landlord to clear up the problem.

At this point, you should contact an attorney who handles these type cases or tenant's advocacy group to be certain as to your specific rights/remedies.


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