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Broke my lease...gotta question!


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I found it neccessary to break my lease with an apt complex because I recently found out there are teen gangs, fights and lots of other "bad" things going on there. I have a 16 and 12 yo daughters who are very impressionable and I don't want them around this mess. My 16 yo "tries" to hang around them because she thinks she is "cool"--the police has actaully come to my house because we got into an altercation. I have been in the process of putting her in a alternative school so that basically took my money to where I was not able to pay my rent for this month. I constructed a settlement letter to my landlord with promises to pay my rent the next month, all late fees, and also the early term fee--all this is spread out over 3 months. Just today, I recvd my notice to answer and have 7 days to do it. I still have not heard anything from the landlord as to if he is going to accept my settlement. The 7 days to answer to the court is 2 days before we move out--we move into another place (lease purchase), much safer place. Should I still answer and go to court or should I go ahead and move? I really want to stick to my settlement letter and pay my debts, but my daughter's safety is important too.

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If I'm reading this right, you have been sued under a forcible entry and detainer (FE&D). If you do not answer it in court, then you will loose and the landlord will not only have an eviction order to take to the sheriff, but you will have to pay whatever cash amount the landlord put on the suit, plus his attorney fees, court costs, and sheriff fees associated with the eviction. This can pile up to thousands of dollars.

I can't say this strongly enough: NEVER ignore a summons to court.

FE&Ds rarely allow for you to ask for extra time. It is a case simply to determine if you have paid your rent or not and if you are illegally demised in the premisis.

You may have a defense to this if you have proof that you communicated the safety conditions to your landlord and he failed to correct it. Under the Implied Warranty of Habitability, the landlord is required in exchange for your rent to provide you with a safe and healthy rental unit. Every lease includes prohibitions on illegal activity. If the people involved int he gang activity live int he apartment complex, the landlord had an obligation to order them to cease or move out (called a Cure or Quit notice). The landlord further had an obligation to provide necessary security to ensure the safety of apartment residents.

If you have proof you asked the landlord to fix the security problems, and he failed to do so, you may terminate the lease due to the landlord's non-compliance. You must still pay for the days you occupied the rental unit, but you are not required to pay out the lease and the landlord must return your security deposit in full because he breached the warranty on the lease.

Use that as your defense. If you have the documentation to back it up, that is the best you can do.

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Methuss,

Thanks for your reply. I don't think it is a FE&D, its the usual notice from the courthouse - a regular summons where I have to answer within 7 days (I can answer online too).

In the lease it states "the apt complex does not provide or guarantee security for personal safety or property of you, your family, guests or visitors. We are not obligated to warn you of crime, to provide security, or to reduce the risk of crime on the premises. You agree to look solely to public police authorities for security and protection".

This landlord is well aware of the goings-on at his complex because everyone is moving out. There are at least 4 families moving out every week! And that is no exagerration!!

Do you think I still have some type of defense? The funny thing is that I want to pay what I owe, if only the landlord worked with me on this!

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I don't think that provision will hold up under scrutiny. The landlord obviously put in in because he was trying to insulate himself from his legal responsibility to provide his tennants with safe housing.

Any provision in a contract that is against the law or public policy is unenforceable. It is well established that a landlord must provide basic security to the premesis including locks, and removing tennants that are disruptive or cause a hazard to others. If he does not have a severability clause inthe contract, then the entire contract is also void.

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I don't think that provision will hold up under scrutiny. The landlord obviously put in in because he was trying to insulate himself from his legal responsibility to provide his tennants with safe housing.

Any provision in a contract that is against the law or public policy is unenforceable. It is well established that a landlord must provide basic security to the premesis including locks, and removing tennants that are disruptive or cause a hazard to others. If he does not have a severability clause inthe contract, then the entire contract is also void.

Absolutely. That clause would be considered "unconscionable," and therefore unenforceable. It would be like putting in something like "you agree to do landlord's laundry weekly and walk his dog on demand." Even if you signed it, he couldn't enforce it.

If the offending individuals are tenants, the landlord has a responsibility to control or remove them. However, this rarely works in practice (hence noisy neighbor problems, which landlords almost never deal with). But they are ABSOLUTELY required to reduce the risk of crime on their premises. Here in New York City, landlords are even required to install mirrors in elevators, to enable you to see if someone is lurking/lying in wait before you get in.

Try to familiarize yourself with your state's housing/landlord-tenant laws, as they vary between states and even cities. What's OK in one state might be illegal in yours, and vice-versa.

I hope you have a paper trail. If not, start creating one.

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I just realized I forgot two more things...

Get copies of the police reports showing the criminal activity in you apartment complex. Showing those to the judge will help if you don't have written evidence of contacting the landlord about the safety and security issues.

And lastly, that crap in the lease about not having to inform you about criminal activity... he better not be defying Meagan's Law by failing to inform all tenants of convicted sexual felons in the complex.

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