12

Let's say you sign a lease and move into the apartment and the 1st or 2nd night you discover there is a dance club next door that runs loud music until 2am.

Is there any law that requires the landlord to let you out of the lease?

My last apartment stated I had 3 days to cancel but I don't know if that was just a courtesy or a legal requirement.

Other examples:

  • You move in and discover that at 3am, 3 times a week, garbage collection arrives and very loudly picks up the metal trash containers and bangs them on the back of their trucks for 5–10 minutes.
  • You move in and notice there's an industrial air conditioner on the building next door that runs 24/7 and that the windows in your apartment do not block the noise sufficiently. You didn't notice this when touring the apartment because ambient background noise in the day is much higher than at night.
  • You move in didn't notice before there's a mosque 1/2 a block away that has loud calls to prayer 5 times a day or a Catholic church that rings its bells early on Sundays

I guess what I'm asking is "is there a cooling-off period" for apartment leases.

2
  • 1
    It is always legal to negotiate with the landlord for an exit.
    – crasic
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 23:19
  • 4
    @crasic The question here is whether "there [is] any law that requires the landlord to let you out of the lease".
    – JBentley
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 10:09

4 Answers 4

15

Once I figured out the term I was looking for was "cooling off period" a google search led to this SFGate article which seems to say, no, there is no cooling off period in California.

breaking a lease, even before moving into a new home, can be a legal challenge. If you must cancel a lease before moving in, be prepared for a financial loss and possible legal difficulties.

And this article

There is no "cooling off" period for residential releases. In some states, a cooling off period is required for certain contracts, which give signers a window of time, typically one to three days, during which they can void the contract if they change their mind. Unless such a condition is explicitly stated in the lease or there is a rare jurisdictional law that requires a cooling period, your lease is binding the second you sign your name.

So, the answer to my question is "No, there is no grace period" and that my current apartment, with the 3 day exception was just a kind offer on their part. I'd just guess because they're a large firm (they run ~80k apartments) they've learned it's better to let people go if they change their mind in 3 days than go through the trouble of forcing them to honor the lease.

Interestingly, and related IMO, there is also no cooling off period for car purchases. I thought there was which is why I thought there might also be one for apartments since, at least in California, many apartments yearly rent is more than the entire cost of a car. (avg in SF is $40k a year)

But, at least in California, if it's a used car and if the car costs less than $40k, the dealer is required to offer you the option to purchase a 2-day cancellation clause for around 1% of the car's price.

2
  • 2
    That paid-for cancellation option doesn't seem that odd, it's a bit like bying a longer warranty for some gadget, or buying any insurance, or getting a more expensive plane ticket that comes with more options for rescheduling or so. Not that the two days are much of a time to find out all problems a car might have, unless you take it to a shop to be thoroughly checked. But I guess at least you could do that.
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 8:59
  • Just because there is no grace period doesn't mean you can't get out of it. You may be out some money, but your landlord might also be willing to give you a partial or complete refund. You can always ask.
    – fectin
    Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 12:28
9

Is there any law that requires the landlord to let you out of the lease?

The covenant of quiet enjoyment, which is implied in every lease unless its language indicates the contrary. See Andrews v. Mobile Aire Estates, 22 Cal.Rptr.3d 832, 838 (2005):

The covenant of quiet enjoyment insulates the tenant against any act or omission on the part of the landlord, or anyone claiming under him, which interferes with a tenants right to use and enjoy the premises for the purposes contemplated by the tenancy.

Your mention that the tenant discover[ed] the nuisance suggests that the landlord omitted informing the tenant about the matter.

amounts to a constructive eviction if the tenant so elects and surrenders possession, and the tenant will not be liable for rentals for the portion of the term following his eviction. [...] Upon surrendering possession of the premises, the tenant is relieved of the obligation to pay rent

Andrews at 840 (citations omitted).

Although unlikely, it is possible that the landlord might prevail on grounds that the tenant knew or should have known about the dance club, and thus that it was the tenant's responsibility to ponder this factor when deciding to sign and maintain the lease beyond the 3-day deadline.

7
  • 3
    I think this is useful to know. You can't cancel the lease just because you want to but if you can prove the place is uninhabitable and the owner/landlord won't fix it you might be able to get out. I agree though that many reasons are going to be gray. i'd be nice if the law required the landlord it enumerate common issues for some legal definition of common and if they didn't it would be possible to cancel. Especially in places like SF where if you find a place you have to rent it immediately else it's gone so you don't have time to check out every detail.
    – gman
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 4:37
  • 2
    @DavidSupportsMonica "and is open at hours other than those when the apartment was inspected". Landlords' offices typically close at 5pm or 6pm. Dance clubs start their thing a few hours later. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 12:07
  • 1
    Your interpretation of "omission" here would have the effect of rendering all leases, everywhere, near any unpleasant neighbor or nuisance void, so I strongly suspect your interpretation is incorrect. The landlord's action or omission does not create the club noise.
    – tbrookside
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 12:24
  • 1
    I don't think "quiet" in this law means loudness of sound. Does it? As a non-lawyer I would think it means "as long as you're behaving in your apartment we can't come and tell you what to do or not do". ???
    – davidbak
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 20:39
  • 4
    @davidbak "I don't think "quiet" in this law means loudness of sound. Does it?" It does. In addition to loudness, the notion of quiet [enjoyment] encompasses various other issues that hinder habitability. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 20:43
1

Is there a grace period when signing an apartment lease?

No.

1

One option not mentioned yet is to try to rescind the lease contract because your consent was given by mistake. The relevant law is Cal. Civ. Code § 1689:

(b) A party to a contract may rescind the contract in the following cases:
(1) If the consent of the party rescinding, or of any party jointly contracting with him, was given by mistake, or obtained through duress, menace, fraud, or undue influence, exercised by or with the connivance of the party as to whom he rescinds, or of any other party to the contract jointly interested with such party.
[...]

Here `mistake' is defined in § 1576-1577 as follows:

Mistake may be either of fact or law.
Mistake of fact is a mistake, not caused by the neglect of a legal duty on the part of the person making the mistake, and consisting in:

  1. An unconscious ignorance or forgetfulness of a fact past or present, material to the contract; or,
  2. Belief in the present existence of a thing material to the contract, which does not exist, or in the past existence of such a thing, which has not existed.

Here the "unconscious ignorance of a fact material to the contract" would be you not knowing that loud music from the night club would audible in your apartment late at night. However, note the stipulation that this ignorance be "not caused by the neglect of a legal duty on the part of the person making the mistake". You should talk to a lawyer to find out whether or not this applies to your situation.

1
  • 1
    As mentioned, I'm not a lawyer, and I have no idea what your chances of success would be if you were to pursue this route. I mention this only because a friend of mine once got out of a lease contract in the Netherlands this way, but of course that is a completely different jurisdiction.
    – Marc
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 19:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .