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I recently rented a basement apartment, since I got there I noticed things wrong with it:

  • Massive amount of spiders
  • No light or railing on the staircase
  • Kitchen light sometimes does not work
  • fridge handle broken
  • cupboard hinges broken
  • ceiling tiles stained and some won't stay in place

I have contacted my landlord about these, and some he has taken action on (he called the pest control company about the spiders) the rest he has done nothing, he even said he would replace the ceiling tiles and the property manager said he would fix the cupboards, but nothing has been done.

Am I in the legal right to break the lease? If so, how do I do it without repercussion?

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    Royal Oak, MI 48067 United States – northsideknight Sep 10 '15 at 23:41
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    Please read this document. If you have specific questions about what is says or how it applies to you feel free to ask. michiganlegalaid.org/library_client/… – jqning Sep 11 '15 at 0:34
  • That @jqning that link is very helpful, thank you. A concern I have is that if I choose to withhold rent, will it affect my credit score? Even with good reason to withhold it? – northsideknight Sep 11 '15 at 0:50
  • He could report it, but that's some kind of fraud, probably requires another question. Note that that link says things like adequate maintenance, reasonable repair, and health & safety codes. Those are the things you might argue about. I don't know what those standards are in MI. I've seen some real shit holes in my day. See if there is a tenant advocacy group that can help you. They should have forms and schedules for you. – jqning Sep 11 '15 at 2:00
  • Here's another good document. mi.gov/documents/dleg/Tenants_and_Landlords_304581_7.pdf – jqning Sep 11 '15 at 2:11
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Disclaimer: This answer is from a general point of view, not specific to the United States.

This is essentially a contractual dispute: Your have entered into a contract with the landlord, which states that

  • you pay the landlord a monthly rent, and in exchange
  • the landlord lets you live in the appartment you rented, and maintains it in reasonable condition

You think that the landlord is not keeping up their side of the deal by neglecting maintenance.

In general, you must establish:

  1. that the landlord indeed owes you what you are expecting
  2. that they did not provide it to you in a timely manner after you requested it

To clear up the first point you must establish what exactly the landlord is required to provide - this can be either explicitly in the contract or implicit due to local law or general consensus. This highly depends on the nature of your contract, and on local law and customs.

To clear up the second point, you must establish that you explicitly told the landlord about the problems and asked for a solution, and that the landlord did not address the problems. Again, exact requirements, timeframes etc. vary a lot, but in general you should demand changes in writing, document them and explicitly specify reasonable time limits for the landlord.


TL;DR:

  • find out whether what you expect is covered by your contract or local law / customs
  • ask your landlord in writing to fix it, and set a time limit

If that fails, you can probably sue, and/or unilaterally cancel your contract. Again, details will vary with jurisdiction.

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    I contacted the city that I lived in, they said since the problems were indoors, it was between the landlord and myself. I contacted the landlord and we came to an agreement to get me out of the lease. So inquiring about how the city handled this was helpful. – northsideknight Sep 13 '15 at 16:16
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You might be the victim of a constructive eviction which might release you from your obligations under the lease.

Consult an attorney.

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