Already moved out of an unhabitable apartment 4 months ago. Can’t really sue or break lease (at least I don’t think) cause I messed up. What happens if I stop paying rent?

Location: PA, USA

Okay, here’s the situation. I will preface by saying, I know I messed up. This is being written in March 2023.

In January, I faced a number of issues in my apartment. The heating stopped working and the smoke detector started beeping every 2 minutes. It was living hell. Earlier, in September when I first moved in, I arrived to a fridge infested with hundreds of fruit flies and a ton of left over food from the tenant whose place I took over during the summer. I cleaned it all, and then the flies kept returning. I then noticed the fridge gasket was very loose in several parts which was what was causing the flies to go in. I learned that the only way to contact maintenance was through submitting a work order online - no phone number. I submitted a work order, it took around two weeks for anything to happen, i then got an email where they said they fulfilled it, but when i checked the fridge there was no change, not even a replaced gasket. (I have photos and videos for all of this if it makes a difference.) I accepted the situation and made do with my mini fridge.

Now fast forward to January. After September’s experience, I was pretty cynical that submitting a work order would actually fix anything (this was my mistake) and I spoke to management in person about it. They did tell me to submit a work order. I had also run into a maintenance worker and verbally told him about the situation and he verbally told me he’d come the next day to fix it, but he didn’t. I got a respiratory infection (documented) and when I told my parents abroad about the situation, they told me to move out, so I did. At the same time I went through some other difficult circumstances and got diagnosed with ADHD. The work order never got submitted. I completely forgot about it. This was a year long lease so I was stuck paying for every month since then while not living there.

I am an international student and this is my first time being an adult so I was unfamiliar with what these actions entailed and the amount of money I am paying every month in addition to my new place’s rent.

I get that because I didn’t put the work order in at the time, I probably have no legal standing because of the lack of a paper trail. But this is seriously taking a financial and mental toll on me and I would really benefit from saving the 5,500 dollars in rent I still have left to pay from the lease. I just thought of something that is potentially reckless so I came here to check if it’s an option. Can I just stop paying rent? I get that eviction is a potential consequence, but I already moved out in January. What are the other probable legal consequences? This is a big company that owns the apartment building in addition to many other properties in the city, so I don’t know if that means they are more or less likely to make use of every legal action against me.

I am leaving the country in August. I know the country’s legal system is slow, so even if the company does take legal action against me, is it likely for me to face consequences within these few months?

  • 1
    Whether it is likely is something we cannot answer. We are not able to give advice on your personal situation; that is what you hire a lawyer to do. We can answer about what is legally possible in a general situation of this kind, but that may or may not apply to you specifically. Mar 25, 2023 at 4:45
  • If you ever set foot in the US again, there is a chance that you could be arrested and put in jail. (Bench warrant for not responding to a subpoena for discovery of assets)
    – user71659
    Mar 25, 2023 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


Two different questions here, damaged housing and the rights of a tenant, and leaving the country to get away from a debt.

If you simply leave the US with the debt left unpaid, you won't have problems at the border crossing going out. But the debt will not go away simply because you don't answer the mail. Quite possibly, the landlord will sell the debt to a collection agency, which adds interest and fees to the claim if they ever find you in the US again. They may or may not find you. But you risk complicating your future. Can you imagine telling an employer "sorry, I cannot work in the US?"

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