General Question

SheWasAll_'s avatar

Do I have cause to break my lease or file suit against my landlord?

Asked by SheWasAll_ (2033points) June 9th, 2011

I am currently renting a one bedroom apartment in an apartment community just outside the city of St. Louis. Back in November, I started noticing some leaks in my ceiling (my apartment is on the top floor). I promptly notified the office about the leaks, however, the leaks continued to drip and more and more water spots appeared on the ceiling. Then while I was in Ohio for a funeral in the beginning of March, part of the ceiling actually caved in from the water damage. The office was again notified and they cleaned the debris and put a tarp across the hole. They did some repairs on the roof, as there are no more leaks; however, it is now early June, and I still have a giant hole in the ceiling. I’m moving into a new place in August and I’m worried the landlord will try to have me pay for the repairs. From the information I provided, do you think I have a case to either break from the remainder of my lease or even file suit?

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10 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Look into landlord-tenant groups in your state. Get them to mediate the dispute with your landlord.

First, you have on record that you called the office and reported it promptly. You should also write a letter reiterating when you reported it and stating that the ceiling repair has not yet been done.

Breaking your lease or filing suit would be last resorts.

WasCy's avatar

In the first place, you have next to nothing to worry about regarding your damage deposit.

Clearly, roof leaks are in the province of the owner of the building, and unless you had actually caused any roof damage, it’s not your responsibility. Second, since you notified the building manager (one hopes) via the appropriate channels (ditto on the hope), then your duty “to notify” was also satisfied.

If you’re unhappy with the hole in the ceiling (and if the roof repairs are complete – it wouldn’t make sense to repair the ceiling now if more damage can be expected), then you could ask to have it repaired immediately. (Of course, the meaning of the word “immediately” may be different to a building owner and contractor from how you define the word.)

Otherwise, if you can live with the temporary cover and if there’s no more water leaking in, then the landlord may have decided to not inconvenience you further until the lease is up and you move out. (Fixing the ceiling will cause additional disruption, of course.)

robmandu's avatar

I can’t see how’d they’d have cause to come after you for the hole in the ceiling that was caused by a leak they’ve already repaired. Unless they’re crazy. And sometimes folks are. But I’d surmise the risk is slight.

A tarp-covered hole in your ceiling is really bad for many reasons. Bad for heating & cooling; bad for the possibility of pests; bad because it just looks bad. Not only should they fix it immediately, they should also put you in a hotel until it’s fixed or move you and your stuff to a different apartment permanently.

The fact you’ve been living with this for months should, I think, mean that you get some of your rent payments back.

jrpowell's avatar

Do you have a Legal Aid office close? Normally a letter with some fancy letterhead will do the trick.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Contact the HEALTH Department. Open ceilings and damaged wallboard from roof leaks can cause health problems. Take care to document the history with the health department. You maybe escorted out by the heath department.

john65pennington's avatar

The repair job was only halfway completed. They repaired the roof, but left your inside damages? Why one half the job?

It appears you have followed the requirements of your lease and its the landlord that is in supect now of your lease violation.

Take photos of the water damage. You should have done this in the beginning. Send the photos to your computer and print the photos. Pictures speak louder than words.

You now have defensive ammunition, if your landlord decides to sue you. Also, you have a defense to break your lease, because of the above mentioned lack of action on the part of your landlord.

Take plenty of photos and hold them for your defense.

creative1's avatar

You could have moved out of the house and they would have had to pay for a place for you to live if your place was inhabitable (such as a hotel) all while you were paying the same rent to them. So yes you have just cause and they are getting off cheap in this.

SheWasAll_'s avatar

Thanks all. I have been taking pictures as the damage progressed, so I have plenty of ammunition if it comes to that. I also added a paragraph about the repairs not being done as of this date to the letter I already typed for notification of me moving out in August. Hopefully legal action won’t be needed.

Ron_C's avatar

I would take picture, notify them again in writing, call the health department (many things happen because of mold damage), and find a new place to live. I would be prepared to leave after the grace period for the next rent payment. I doubt that the landlord will give you back your security deposit so you should, at least, get a little something out of it. Sounds like a crummy place anyway.

Judi's avatar

Why don’t you tell them that you are extremely unhappy with the timleness of the repairs and that you would like to terminate your lease early (for cause) unless they complete the repairs within a week. Hand them a letter with the same information. Explain that you have been put out, and that without a ceiling to hold the insulation in your utility bills are sure to be affected. You might be surprised that they agree to let you move early.
If there is a management company, find the address to their corporate office and send a copy, along with pictures and documentation of when the leaks began to them as well.
They should not charge you gor damages caused by a roof leak or plumbing leak. It is their responsibility to fix this. That’s the benefit of renting over owning.
Although I have only worked in California, I am a real estate broker specializing in Property management and have been in the business 25 years.

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