General Question

drClaw's avatar

How can I get out of my lease?

Asked by drClaw (4452points) December 7th, 2009

About 2 years ago my wife decided to go back to college, so we packed up moved nearer to the school (in Seattle) and got into an apartment. The first year in our apartment went pretty well, it took some adjusting since the area wasn’t as nice as our previous home, but it was by no means bad. With express bus service to my office and close proximity to the college we decided to resign our lease.

Since the resigning of our lease our building has gone downhill. It started when a drug dealer moved in next door. People come in and out of his apartment at all hours in the evening, they park in our spot even when we confront them about it and they have been smoking so much pot/cigarettes in their home that our apartment is beginning to smell like a bong-water soaked ashtray.

We have spoken to the management who does what they can, but it isn’t enough, we have seen no improvement. My wife is uncomfortable leaving without me when it is dark out and is starting to feel suffocated which in turn makes me angry, yet I have no idea what more can be done.

Any advice is welcome.

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16 Answers

ModernEpicurian's avatar

If you know that they deal drugs in there, call the police. Simple as.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Yeah, you might consider notifying the police, but having lived in a very bad apartment complex in Roanoke with multiple drug dealers, I don’t have a lot of faith that they care about a small fish.

What I would do is contact the management and basically say what you’ve said here, and that it’s causing you to want to break your lease. I’d ask if they would be willing to work with you in not charging a fee because they have not sufficiently been able to maintain a safe environment in the building. I don’t know how that would work from a legal standpoint, but I think you do have a very good point at least on principle.

dpworkin's avatar

I concur that you should arm yourself with police reports, then approach the landlord for a negotiation to terminate your lease. If that fails, take the case to Landlord/Tenant Court which you can do pro se, bring the documents and ask for a ruling in favor of termination. or a large reduction in rent. Once your rent is reduced the landlord will want you gone and will renegotiate.

marinelife's avatar

This site lists what it refers to as the five universal rights of tenants. It seems to support your issue as reason to break your lease. Make sure your complaints to the landlord are in writing. (Keep a copy and dates for your records. ) Do as others have said and call the police when you smell drugs or your parking place is taken. Get a copy of the police report Send to the landlord and keep one for yourself.

“1. Right to a safe living space

You are legally entitled to live in a space that supports your ability to thrive healthfully and safely. If any utility or basic function of your apartment is not functioning properly—the heat doesn’t work; the toilet overflows constantly—your landlord needs to take action to correct it. While your landlord is not necessarily obligated to provide a high-tech security system, locks, deadbolts, and some sort of locking system for windows should be provided for all residences. Gates and keyed access for residents are other ways to protect your security. Your lease agreement will outline the details of security features your landlord is prepared to provide. If you have concerns, document them and get the police involved—you should not be required to stay in or pay rent on an apartment that is not safe.”

Good luck.

jaytkay's avatar

Local law will spell out specific steps you can take to remedy the situation or break the lease. Follow it carefully and document every action.

It looks like you have an excellent local resource in Solid Ground:
“Solid Ground’s Tenant Counseling services operates a statewide hotline for tenants seeking information on the Residential Landlord/Tenant Act, and we provide resources on renters’ rights for repairs, deposits and evictions.”

City of Seattle Landlord-Tenant Information

Georgia_Printco's avatar

Make sure to keep records on when/who you report issues. When you involve the police you will need to have this kind of documentation. They can’t really do anything initially if you don’t have proof that you have confronted management regarding the issue. Reporting to the police with your documentation will give you stronger legal grounds and the management will probably want to appease you quickly to avoid any negative publicity that could be caused by legal action.

drClaw's avatar

We have contacted the police, unfortunately however we live in an unincorporated area which means we don’t have a city police force just state patrol. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference but every time they have been called they simply come by and make sure no ones dead then leave.

Also we have been documenting our concerns and communicating them via email to our managers for a few months now.

pjanaway's avatar

Fake your own death!

galileogirl's avatar

What may very well happen is that when you give your 30 day notice stating their failure to maintain a safe environment as the cause, they may sue you for the remaining rent. When it goes to trial or a hearing you may prevail in which case you will be free. If the landlord prevails you may be required to pay from 2mos-remainder of the lease. In any case there will be a record of a landlord suing you on your credit report that can follow you for several years. On the other hand you might appeal to the landlord directly that it is in his best interest to do something because as good tenants move out he will only be able to retain drug dealers.

As an answer to a question from yesterday. This is why landlords should run criminal and credit checks.

Judi's avatar

Ask the police to do a “knock and talk.” Often times that will scare them, or they will get arrested and the problem will be solved.
Other wise, document document document. If you can do it safely, document the license plate numbers of the cars that show up. Give them to the police.
Ask the manager if they will let you out of your lease and bug them daily with every incident. Document every time you call them and eventually they will either deal with the neighbor or let you out of your lease just to get you to stop bugging them. If they seem to not care, ask for the number of the corporate office. Worst case scenario you can go to the county recorders office and get the name and address of the owner. Write an eloquent letter outlining your complaint and your request to be let out of the lease. cc the Manager, the Property Management Company and the Owner of the property.
If you end up breaking the lease and they try to sue you for the balance of the rent you will have massive documentation as to why the manager was not insuring your right to “peaceful enjoyment” (a legal term) of the apartment.

drClaw's avatar

Thanks everyone for the great advice. I took everything you said with me when I went to discuss this with my property manager and while I made no headway with getting out of my lease my information did lead to an interesting development I hadn’t considered. Part of our lease agreement states use of drugs on the property can result in immediate eviction. This wouldn’t fix every problem, but it would at lease get rid of the drug dealer next door.

I feel dirty getting someone evicted for smoking copious amounts of weed as I’m a marijuana sympathizer and don’t think it is wrong, but it is the only ammo I am left with to remedy this problem.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@drClaw – Don’t feel bad. Smoking and dealing are two entirely different things.

dutchbrossis's avatar

Sounds like you probably have a reason to break your lease seeing as you are not comfortable living there. If not then most leases have a clause in them where it has a plan if you break the lease where you don’t have to pay off the whole thing but a part of it. You might want to read through your lease to see what it says.

bellusfemina's avatar

Tell them you are being deployed to Iraq. By law they have to let you out of your lease.

galileogirl's avatar

@bellusfemina Try again. The landlord can ask for proof. Lying very seldom solves adult problems.

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