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Barrister
Barrister, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 37020
Experience:  16 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 26 years
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My former land lord refused to modify or provide a way for

Customer Question

my former land lord refused to modify or provide a way for me to get into my 2nd floor apartment, I informed him that he would have to put in a way for me to enter the apartment after I had surgery on my back that would prevent me from beign able to go up and down stairs for at lest 2 months. he told my husband and I that he would not do it and that we could just move out but he would keep our security deposit. and terminate our lease 6 months early. he is now suing us for breaking our lease. what legal standing do I have
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Barrister replied 2 years ago.
Hello and welcome! My name is ***** ***** I will try my level best to help with your situation or get you to someone who can.
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I am afraid that in a situation like this, the landlord is correct. He has no legal duty to provide a new means of access to the dwelling due to any medical concerns you have been having. He just has to provide a dwelling that is "habitable" and meets all local housing and code requirements.
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From a purely legal perspective, if you have surgery that prevents you from climbing stairs, that isn't something that the landlord is responsible for. Presumably he didn't have anything to do with your injury and isn't liable for the costs of ensuring that you have a way to access your dwelling other than the normal means that was present when you rented.
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As for breaking the lease, if you had a written lease contract for a set term, unless you get the landlord to agree to release you from the lease in writing, he can hold you liable for any lost rent until he re-rents it.
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Landlords in most states must make a reasonable effort to re-rent their units when a tenant breaks a lease, to "mitigate" their damages, rather than charge the tenant for the total remaining rent due under the lease. Unfortunately, landlords in Pennsylvania (Stonehedge Square Ltd. P’ship v. Movie Merchs., 715 A.2d 1082 (Pa. 1998)) do not have the same responsibility to “mitigate damages” by trying to rent their property reasonably quickly and keeping their losses to a minimum if you move before a lease ends.
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So if you didn't get something in writing where the landlord agreed to release you from the lease, he would be able to pursue you for any lost rent up til the end of the lease or when he rents it, whichever is sooner.
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If you have emails, texts, letters, etc. where the landlord states that he will allow you to move, then you could use those to defend against the lawsuit and argue that the landlord voluntarily agreed to release you from the lease. If you don't have any evidence, then it will boil down to who the judge feels is more credible as to whether there was an oral release from the lease.
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I am very sorry that I don’t have better news, but please understand that I do have an ethical and professional obligation to provide customers with legally correct answers based on my knowledge and experience, even when I know the answer doesn’t make the customer happy...
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thanks
Barrister

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