What are sufficient grounds to terminate a lease early without penalty?

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What are sufficient grounds to terminate a lease early without penalty?

Since moving into my rental house I’ve had been numerous problems: no heat/gas for nearly the entire winter, electrical problems, water tank constantly flooding the living spaces, a mold issue, and the landlord filed for bankruptcy.Now my landlord is in the hospital, critically ill, and cannot handle her own affairs. I’ve had random relatives of her’s stopping by to do walk through’s, with no notice. They have been claiming that I owe random amounts of money with no proof. I’ve had enough and want out of my lease now. Do I have grounds to terminate my lease without penalty?

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Maryland

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there is an implied warranty of habitability which requires the landlord to maintain the premises in a habitable condition by complying with local and state housing codes.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, the tenant notifies the landlord as you have done and the landlord is required to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs. 

The problems you mentioned; no heat/gas in winter, flooding, electrical problems, and mold are health and safety issues which constitute breaches of the implied warranty of habitability.  When there is a breach of the implied warranty of habitability and the landlord fails to respond within a reasonable time by making the necessary repairs, the tenant has the following remedies:  The tenant can make the repairs and deduct the cost from the rent or the tenant can move out and terminate the obligation to pay rent for the balance of the term of the lease or if the tenant stays on the premises, the tenant can withhold rent and defend against eviction.  Other alternatives are to sue the landlord for breach of the implied warranty of habitability;  contact the local housing code inspector, who can bring an enforcement action against the landlord for housing code violations.

As for the landlord's relatives or agents entering your rental without notice, many states have a notice requirement, but unfortunately Maryland is one of the states without a notice statute.


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