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Is it possible to get out of my rental agreement

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We signed a 1 year...
We signed a 1 year lease on the second floor of a single family home beginning in April. At the time we signed the lease, we were told that there would be construction going on the first floor for about 4 months (they are turning the garage into an in-law quarters). We were assured that there would be minimal impact to us, but occasionally there might be disruption to utilities during construction hours. Our lease defines construction hours as 8:30am-5:30pm.<br /><br />While we don't have full access to the downstairs contruction area, it is where the garbage/recycle bins are located, as well as where the laundry is.<br /><br />Since moving in, we have been extremely unhappy with just about everything to do with the house.<br /><br />Here is a list of our grievances:<br />1. Landlord disconnected the central heater with no warning. It's still disconnected after 2 months. Summer months can be notoriously cold in San Francisco.<br /><br />2. After removing the central heater, the contractor put exposed insulation in the empty vents so that dust from the construction zone didn't get into the main house. (exposed insulation is potentially hazardous to your health)<br /><br />3. The landlord said he would do various repairs prior to move in, and didn't (replacing a light fixture in bathroom, fixing a broken towel rack, general cleanup)<br /><br />4. Left the house in terrible condition. We spent the first few days doing cleanup. The kitchen shelves were in particularly bad shape.<br /><br />5. The contractor has left the washer/dryer unplugged on numerous occasions without warning (sometimes temporarily moving the washer/dryer to areas where there is no access to plug them in)<br /><br />6. The contractor has done gas line work without warning - we came home to the entire house filled with a gas smell without expecting it. We had to air it out overnight (leaving the house quite cold without a heater)<br /><br />7. Landlord said we would have access to garden in the backyard, but planted his own plants in most of the areas of the backyard and left construction debris in remaining areas<br /><br />8. We found mold while taking down some wallpaper and notified the landlord, asking him to take care of it. He would not have it professionally inspected or removed. Instead, he suggested that we remove it ourselves using bleach. I did remove it, but we're worried that there could be mold in other rooms, hidden by wallpaper.<br /><br />9. There has been unsafe conditions downstairs most of the time - wooden planks covering holes in the ground, no lighting near the washer/dryer. There was no lighting at all downstairs for about a week. The landlord's recommendation was that we use flashlights.<br /><br />10. The repairs that the landlord has done are unsatisfactory. Examples: he put scotch tape over holes in wall where a towel rack was once mounted, put scotch tape to fix wallpaper coming loose, and used caulking to try to prevent a water leak in the shower (unsuccessfully)<br /><br />11. The contractor occasionally shows up early (work is not supposed to start until 8:30, and he has started as early as 7:45) - admittedly this is fairly minor, but can be rather inconvenient.<br /><br />12. The contractor frequently stays late (work is supposed to end at 5:30 - he usually works until 6:15, sometimes as late as 7:30). We usually get home from work between 6:15 and 6:30. About 50% of the days, the contractor is still at the house when we get home.<br /><br />13. The landlord shows up unannounced at least once a week. Also, he usually brings his whole family and makes a lot of noise. He doesn't come into our section of the house - just the construction zone. However, there is no noise insulation between the floors right now, so anything said downstairs can be clearly heard upstairs, almost as if they are in the next room over. He was showing up almost every day when we first moved in. Now that construction is in full swing, he seems to come by once during the week to check on the progress, and again on the weekend. When he comes, he lets his 3 kids run around and play downstairs unsupervised. When he comes on the weekend, he usually stays for about 2 hours.<br /><br />After many complaints to the landlord, he offered a $200 reduction to our monthly rent while construction is going on. While it was a nice gesture, it doesn't address any of the above problems.<br /><br />We've been trying to make things work - we've been doing a lot of the maintenance and repairs ourselves, and have just come to the realization that we're going to be putting a lot of money into a rental that we don't even like. At this point, we'd ideally just like to move out. However, we put down a $2500 deposit and still have 9 months left on our lease. We're not quite sure if it would be possible to move out without losing the deposit and we also don't want to leave ourselves liable to be sued by the landlord.<br /><br />Things are still professional with the landlord, but it feels like getting anything done through him is like talking to a brick wall. I don't want to approach him about the subject of moving out until I know what my options are legally. I have a feeling that once the subject is brought to his attention, things won't be as amiable.<br /><br />What can we do in this situation?
Submitted: 8 years ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 1 minute by:
6/24/2010
Real Estate Lawyer: Infolawyer, Lawyer replied 8 years ago
Infolawyer
Infolawyer, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 63,663
Experience: Experienced lawyer
Verified
Hello and thank you for your question.
To get out of the lease there are normally 4 ways:
1. negotiate with the landlord. often that means paying a penalty to be released.
2. finding a clause in lease that permits you to end it early on notice. This is rare
3. suing the landlord for breach of lease or having a lawyer threaten such action which can lead to a release either by consent or court order
4. subletting for the lease term.
To find local counsel to represent you, see www.martindale.com

The landlord can hold you liable for the lease term or until it finds a new tenant, whichever is less. Try to negotiate to be released early or alternatively to sublet. Some landlords will consent or take the deposit and a small penalty, especially if have access to a new tenant
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
For (1), what sort of penalty can we expect? At this point, we would be putting several thousand dollars into the house to get it to an acceptable state. If paying a penalty would exceed that, we may not want to go that route.

For (2), what sort of clause should we look for? Do any of our grievances sound like they might be enough to let us end it early?
Real Estate Lawyer: Infolawyer, Lawyer replied 8 years ago
Landlords often release tenant on forfeit of deposit and a month or two of rent.

If landlord cannot provide habitable premises, that would be basis for rescinding. Practically though the cost of litigating the issue is often not worth it.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
Relist: Answer quality.
Answer did not address my situation specifically. Sounded like a canned response. Not worth $28.
Real Estate Lawyer: Infolawyer, Lawyer replied 8 years ago
What can I clarify for you?
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
I'd like to be given advice about our situation. I would like to know if our situation specifically gives us any ammunition to use against him. The house isn't inhabitable, strictly speaking.

I re-read our lease and I don't see any clauses that would specifically let us break the contract. However, there are things that he has violated in the contract (he's required to give 24 hour notice of any disruption in utilities, the contractor is only supposed to work 8:30-5:30pm Mon-Fri without 24 hour verbal notice - which we've never received, the landlord is supposed to take care of any mold we find, etc)

I've always heard that rental disputes highly favor the tenant in San Francisco. I'm curious what we can expect if we escalate the issue (first by making the landlord aware of our desire to break the lease, and then taking it to another authority if necessary).
Real Estate Lawyer: Infolawyer, Lawyer replied 8 years ago
You could threaten by lawyer letter to take him court or lease violations. He then may release you to avoid legal fees and exposure
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