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A couple of my tenants in DC broke their lease pretexting the…

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A couple of my tenants...
A couple of my tenants in DC broke their lease pretexting the apartment was inhabitable because of mice. There were mice, but not presenting as severe a problem as they claimed. Their lease is up in May, and they vacated on Feb 17 paying only for 17 days instead of the full month rent of $2400.00. In addition they left damaged walls and floors, for which repairs are estimated over $2600. I want to know if I am within my rights as a landlord to claim for the unpaid portion of the Feb rent plus costs of repairs for the damages.
Submitted: 6 years ago.Category: Landlord-Tenant
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Answered in 9 minutes by:
2/27/2012
Lawyer: Ely, Counselor at Law replied 6 years ago
Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 103,547
Experience: Attorney
Verified
Hello and thank you for the opportunity to assist you. Please remember that there might be a delay between your follow ups and my replies because I am typing out my answer, or taking a quick break.

I am sorry for your situation. Under Washington DC's laws, a landlord has a duty to provide habitable apartments or houses and to repair housing code violations. This is called a warranty of habitability, recognized in by DCs circuit (Javins v. First National Realty Corporation, 428 F. 2d 1071 - Court of Appeals, Dist. of Columbia Circuit 1970). The same Court held that if the landlord breaks that warranty, the tenant may move out without paying and not be held liable for the lease.

The warranty of habitability is both in statutory law and common law. In sum, it demands that the apartment is habitable. According to the DC Housing Code, insects such as roaches, ants, water bugs, etc. are prohibited. However, if they appear, does this void the lease under the warranty of habitability, automatically?

The statutes or Courts give no clear answer. Therefore, it is a subjective matter. Either party may take the issue to Court and the Judge would decide based on the following factors:

-was the infestation cased by the tenants' lack of cleanliness or the property lacking the proper defenses?
-how long after the tenants complained did the landlord act to stop the infestation?
-did the landlord act?
-did the tenants give the landlord an ultimatum?
-was the season ripe for such an infestation and was such an infestation the norm given the age/condition of the property?

In the end, it is the Judge's decision. Therefore, you can contest the deposit and if they feel that this is an issue, they are free to take it to small claims court and then the Court would decide.

Finally, damages property is indeed deductible from the deposit. Anything beyond natural wear and tear is. Make sure to take photographs to have proof aside from just your word that illustrate the reasonable deductions.

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Ely, Counselor at Law
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