Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Non-investing personal finance issues including insurance, credit, real estate, taxes, employment and legal issues such as trusts and wills
Post Reply
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

My wife and I live in a high rise apartment. We're in the 6th month of a 1-year lease. This is our 2nd year here. On October 31, a pipe broke in the apartment above us, causing water damage to 28 apartments. Our apartment was one of the worst hit, as we were right below the source of the water. Water covered most of the floor in the apartment except the kitchen and living room. Also, the drywall was wet in multiple places on the ceiling and walls. The property manager had a restoration company there that same night, and they put blowers and and a dehumidifier in our apartment. They have since removed all the flooring in the apartment and large portions of the drywall. They have not started repairs yet.

Last week, after the flooding, we had a somewhat brief in-person conversation with the property manager to discuss options. At the time, she seemed okay with us breaking the lease early without penalty. She also offered to allow us to move into another apartment in the complex, which we are not really interested in doing after this incident. The property manager was fully aware that we were looking at other apartment complexes over the past weekend. However, when we met with her again today in-person to tell her we had found another apartment complex and were looking to move out in the next week or two, breaking the lease early was suddenly a problem. Apparently, she now tells us that she doesn't have the authority to make such a decision, that she would have to check with corporate, and doing so could take time. I tried putting pressure on her, telling her that I need an answer ASAP so we can make plans.

I have a few questions:
1) Should we pay our November rent? So far we have been unable to live in our apartment this month, so I see no reason to pay rent. At the moment, our insurance company is paying for us to stay in a hotel, and we only have a maximum of $4,000 coverage.
2) Does an incident such as this usually allow a tenant to break the lease early without penalty? I'm in the process of reviewing the lease myself, but I know there are a lot of standard clauses in lease agreements so figured it was worth asking here too.
3) What would likely be the ramifications of us just moving out right now and walking away? Maybe it could hurt our ability to rent in the future? Could it affect our credit score/history?

Also, if anybody has any other input, I'm all ears. Thanks in advance for any insight that anybody here can provide.
bogletay
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 2:57 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by bogletay »

If your apartment is uninhabitable by reasonable standards due to the flooding, then I would not pay rent for November and proceed with moving. If I were in your shoes, I would take pictures of the damage and let the building know that the apartment is uninhabitable in the timeframe you need (aka when your insurance coverage for a hotel wears out), that you'll be vacating, and ask them to please free you of your lease in writing. This should be grounds to vacate the property. I would also check with a local tenants union as they may have guidance.
User avatar
Sandtrap
Posts: 12334
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Location: Hawaii No Ka Oi , N. Arizona
Contact:

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by Sandtrap »

One of the tenets of a rental agreement is protecting a residents right to quiet and full enjoyment of the premises paid for. This includes a liveable dwelling with all utilities functioning, etc.
You do not have this.

So. Send a letter to the landlord including the following:
1. Event recap and timeline of the leak and how it has effected your lifestyle, dwelling, etc.
(include lots of pictures)
2. Copies of damage receipts, water removal rental equipment, etc.
3. List of damages to posessions and reimb costs. Carpet, furniture, keepsakes, etc.
4. All conversation recaps to support you including your latest recap with the rental agent.
5. All email and text recaps that support you.
6. Description of your current living conditions and lifestyle adaptation.
7. Formal notice that you will be vacating the premises on such n such a date.
8. Forwarding addresss for full reimbursemnet of security deposit and or any refundable items per your lease to be sent to you within 30 days of your move out date. Statement that you expect full reimbursement.
9. List of damage and or wage loss, etc, costs to also be reimbursed within 30 days after vacating premises, directly or indirectly applicable because of the water leak.
10. Statement that your lease duration is null and void due to the leak and damages.
11. Statement that if the leasing agent or landlord has any objections to please send them to you in writing as soon as possible so you can confer with legal counsel.

Notes*
This is not a conversation.
There is no bargaining or middle ground or higher or upper road.
You are not "breaking a lease nor requesting a lease break from the landlord. This is different and obvious.
No. Put together a portfolio as above and future landlords will have a tough time holding it against you.
You are dealing with a large building and leasing agents so going about it this way isresult oriented and perhaps different than if you were in a single family home and renting from the owner directly.
Your goal is not to be nice or "fair". Your goal is to move out and move on.

*For now. Do not pay your rent. If the unit is not liveable and vacant then theres no need to. In fact, the landlord should be paying your alternate dwelling expenses, often by law. And, not paying rent from this point on is a negotiating tool and also draws attention to your intentions if there are 200 other tenants.

Disclaimers:
Seek legal counsel asap to issue a letter similar to above on their letterhead (works great)
Confirm the above with legal counsel as every situation and location is different with a million opinions and experiences.


Most experienced landlords will reapond proactively to a letter and circumstances you described.
j :D
Last edited by Sandtrap on Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:55 am, edited 1 time in total.
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
User avatar
galawdawg
Posts: 1735
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:59 pm
Location: Georgia

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by galawdawg »

Take a look at your lease for any provision that governs what occurs when an apartment becomes uninhabitable. Some leases provide that it may be terminated by the tenant without penalty and without advance notice in such an event. In many jurisdictions, such would be considered a "constructive eviction" and a property owner cannot compel you to fulfill the terms of your lease agreement nor to pay rent during any period where you cannot reside on the premises.

If this is not resolved soon in a favorable manner, you may wish to consult with your own trusted attorney. If there is a local government agency that regulates landlord-tenant matters, they may also be able to assist.

IANYL. Good luck!
User avatar
anon_investor
Posts: 4273
Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:43 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by anon_investor »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:46 pm My wife and I live in a high rise apartment. We're in the 6th month of a 1-year lease. This is our 2nd year here. On October 31, a pipe broke in the apartment above us, causing water damage to 28 apartments. Our apartment was one of the worst hit, as we were right below the source of the water. Water covered most of the floor in the apartment except the kitchen and living room. Also, the drywall was wet in multiple places on the ceiling and walls. The property manager had a restoration company there that same night, and they put blowers and and a dehumidifier in our apartment. They have since removed all the flooring in the apartment and large portions of the drywall. They have not started repairs yet.

Last week, after the flooding, we had a somewhat brief in-person conversation with the property manager to discuss options. At the time, she seemed okay with us breaking the lease early without penalty. She also offered to allow us to move into another apartment in the complex, which we are not really interested in doing after this incident. The property manager was fully aware that we were looking at other apartment complexes over the past weekend. However, when we met with her again today in-person to tell her we had found another apartment complex and were looking to move out in the next week or two, breaking the lease early was suddenly a problem. Apparently, she now tells us that she doesn't have the authority to make such a decision, that she would have to check with corporate, and doing so could take time. I tried putting pressure on her, telling her that I need an answer ASAP so we can make plans.

I have a few questions:
1) Should we pay our November rent? So far we have been unable to live in our apartment this month, so I see no reason to pay rent. At the moment, our insurance company is paying for us to stay in a hotel, and we only have a maximum of $4,000 coverage.
2) Does an incident such as this usually allow a tenant to break the lease early without penalty? I'm in the process of reviewing the lease myself, but I know there are a lot of standard clauses in lease agreements so figured it was worth asking here too.
3) What would likely be the ramifications of us just moving out right now and walking away? Maybe it could hurt our ability to rent in the future? Could it affect our credit score/history?

Also, if anybody has any other input, I'm all ears. Thanks in advance for any insight that anybody here can provide.
Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
jrbdmb
Posts: 605
Joined: Tue Oct 06, 2015 4:27 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by jrbdmb »

Read your lease. It should have a paragraph on what happens if the apartment becomes uninhabitable due to no fault of your own.

My son just signed a lease, here is the relevant text. I did not see any language where the tenant can unilaterally decide to terminate the lease. Of course your lease may be different:
7. Total destruction of premises.
A) This lease ends if a fire or other event that is not the fault of Tenant or Tenant's guests damages the apartment
or the building so that, in Landlord's sole opinion, Landlord cannot repair or restore it within 60 days, even if the apartment
itself is not damaged. Tenant's rights and rental obligation shall end at the same time.
B) If Landlord believes Landlord can repair the damages. Landlord has the right to begin repairs within 30 days.
Landlord may enter the apartment to do so. This may make it inconvenient for Tenant to use the apartment. While Landlord
is making repairs, Landlord shall not collect rent for the part of the apartment which Tenant cannot use because of the
damage and repairs. If there is a dispute about the amount of rent due, Tenant agrees to pay the full amount claimed by
Landlord.
C) Tenant cannot collect anything from Landlord for any damage or because of any repair work, any interruption
in use, or the ending of this Lease.
Edit - It's also possible that local law may override the lease since a landlord-provided rental contract will invariably favor the landlord.
Last edited by jrbdmb on Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:14 am, edited 3 times in total.
stan1
Posts: 9530
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2007 4:35 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by stan1 »

anon_investor wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:56 am
Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
OP says they was offered a vacant unit in the building and they declined it. I'm not sure why they did that.
fyre4ce
Posts: 1148
Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2017 11:29 am

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by fyre4ce »

Have they given you an estimate on when the repairs will be complete?
OnTrack2020
Posts: 707
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:24 am

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by OnTrack2020 »

I don't know how it works in every state, but our son rents an apartment wherein the property management company also assesses a risk mitigation fee on top of rent. Do you pay this type of additional fee?

You've been given really good advice above.

I, personally, might have considered taking up the offer on moving to another unit within the complex--as long as it was on a top floor.

You will go through the insurance money really quickly if only $4,000 is allowed for temporary housing. And it normally takes at least 30 days to be approved for another rental property, so time is really of the essence in getting your living situation decided.

I should also add that our son's rental agreement and addendums were over 50 pages long----just insane. I figured that nothing in that agreement would be to his benefit.
User avatar
8foot7
Posts: 2430
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:29 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by 8foot7 »

Sandtrap wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:52 am
Notes*
This is not a conversation.
There is no bargaining or middle ground or higher or upper road.
You are not "breaking a lease nor requesting a lease break from the landlord. This is different and obvious.

*For now. Do not pay your rent. If the unit is not liveable and vacant then theres no need to. In fact, the landlord should be paying your alternate dwelling expenses, often by law. And, not paying rent from this point on is a negotiating tool and also draws attention to your intentions if there are 200 other tenants.
This.

There is no negotiating this. You paid for a place to live, you don't have a place to live and it's been two weeks. You are not asking to break the lease. The lease has been broken by virtue of the landlord not upholding its obligation to provide a place to live. You no longer have a valid agreement.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but I don't really care what the lease says -- the place you are renting is no longer inhabitable. Unless they are telling you everytihng will be back to normal in the next couple of days, it doesn't matter to me what the landlord says your obligation to him/her/it is. They are no longer (able to) perform their end of the bargain and thus in my mind you're done, see ya, have a nice day, good luck trying to collect from me.

Do not "ask" to leave, do not "ask" for penalties to be waived. Simply state, because our unit is uninhabitable and repairs have not yet started, we are (1) not going to pay rent for a place that is unliveable (b) moving out and (c) expect our deposit to be returned within 10 days; here's the address to which you can send it.

You don't have to be rude or impolite about it, but do not go in as if you are requesting permission or asking for a concession.
Last edited by 8foot7 on Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

anon_investor wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:56 am Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
I'm not sure. The leasing office told me to contact my insurance company, which I did. I explained everything thoroughly to the insurance company. I would imagine that if the insurance company thought that the company that owned the apartment complex should be paying, then they would have pushed back.
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

stan1 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:00 am OP says they was offered a vacant unit in the building and they declined it. I'm not sure why they did that.
Let me explain. This apartment building was built in 2016, but it has had a history of plumbing problems according to a tenant that moved in to the complex in 2017. We've experienced this ourselves first hand. In our apartment, we've had 3 leaks before the flood, twice from the ceiling above the shower and once in the maintenance closet. The leak in the maintenance closet required them to rip up some of the flooring and leave a blower overnight. What made it worse is that we arrived home late at night with a blower running in our apartment with no prior notification that they had done any work in our apartment.

Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst. So, if that's really the case, isn't it likely to happen again? People are staying home a lot more for the foreseeable future. We don't really want to take the risk of another pipe bursting and would rather just leave the apartment complex. Isn't this reasonable?
User avatar
8foot7
Posts: 2430
Joined: Mon Jan 05, 2015 7:29 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by 8foot7 »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:21 pm
Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst.
This is, bluntly, horse manure.
User avatar
anon_investor
Posts: 4273
Joined: Mon Jun 03, 2019 1:43 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by anon_investor »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:09 pm
anon_investor wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:56 am Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
I'm not sure. The leasing office told me to contact my insurance company, which I did. I explained everything thoroughly to the insurance company. I would imagine that if the insurance company thought that the company that owned the apartment complex should be paying, then they would have pushed back.
Sounds like they were hoping you would deal with it. It should really have been their problem to deal with, since they were liable for the leak. In any case, you need to look at your lease languguage. Also depending on your local laws, their offer of a similar replacement apartment may be sufficient to prevent you from breaking your lease penalty free, although you'd have to check with someone familiar with your local laws to confirm.
AB609
Posts: 54
Joined: Thu Oct 17, 2019 9:02 am

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by AB609 »

8foot7 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:24 pm
JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:21 pm
Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst.
This is, bluntly, horse manure.
That's a good one. I'll have to tell my brother the plumber that one. Might be great for business -- we recommend you upgrade your plumbing due to Covid.

If they are offering you a comparable apartment to live in during the restoration, I'm not sure you have much of a case.
User avatar
Watty
Posts: 21331
Joined: Wed Oct 10, 2007 3:55 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by Watty »

AB609 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 3:42 pm If they are offering you a comparable apartment to live in during the restoration, I'm not sure you have much of a case.
+1

Especially for paying your living expenses while your apartment is fixed.
User avatar
FIREchief
Posts: 5819
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2016 6:40 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by FIREchief »

8foot7 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:24 pm
JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:21 pm
Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst.
This is, bluntly, horse manure.
LOL. Exactly. Do people now just think that they can blame Covid for everything?? :P
I am not a lawyer, accountant or financial advisor. Any advice or suggestions that I may provide shall be considered for entertainment purposes only.
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

Here's the wording from my lease about the apartment being uninhabitable:

"If we believe that fire or catastrophic damage to the Apartment is substantial, or that performance of needed repairs poses a danger to you, we may terminate this Lease by giving you written notice. If the Lease is so terminated, we will refund prorated rent and all deposits, less lawful deductions. If the Apartment becomes uninhabitable due to fire or other catastrophic damage not caused by you or your Occupants or guests, we may offer you the opportunity to transfer and sign a new lease and/or a right to return to the Apartment once all repairs have been completed and the Apartment has been returned to a habitable condition."

Any thoughts on this? Also, I'm thinking to hire an attorney to at least write a letter as previously recommended. Does anybody know how to go about finding one?
MishkaWorries
Posts: 364
Joined: Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:39 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by MishkaWorries »

8foot7 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:24 pm
JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:21 pm
Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst.
This is, bluntly, horse manure.
Exactly. But use it against them.

"I'm sorry but we simply can't risk going to a different apartment since the pipes in this building are bursting do to COVID-19."

IANAL by a long shot but it seems to me the apartment people gave away any right to force OP to take a different unit. OP asked where to go and what to do and the apartment people told them they were on their own and to file a claim with their home owners insurance.

I can't believe how awful these leases are. Can that kind of one-sided language be legal? If not, it's fraud to put it in there and hope tenants give away their rights without knowing them.
We plan. G-d laughs.
User avatar
Sandtrap
Posts: 12334
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Location: Hawaii No Ka Oi , N. Arizona
Contact:

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by Sandtrap »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:21 pm
stan1 wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:00 am OP says they was offered a vacant unit in the building and they declined it. I'm not sure why they did that.
Let me explain. This apartment building was built in 2016, but it has had a history of plumbing problems according to a tenant that moved in to the complex in 2017. We've experienced this ourselves first hand. In our apartment, we've had 3 leaks before the flood, twice from the ceiling above the shower and once in the maintenance closet. The leak in the maintenance closet required them to rip up some of the flooring and leave a blower overnight. What made it worse is that we arrived home late at night with a blower running in our apartment with no prior notification that they had done any work in our apartment.

Also, the property manager's explanation for the pipe bursting is that there are lots of people working/staying at home because of the pandemic. All the extra water running through the pipes and building up of pressure, in addition to temperature changes, caused the pipe to burst. So, if that's really the case, isn't it likely to happen again? People are staying home a lot more for the foreseeable future. We don't really want to take the risk of another pipe bursting and would rather just leave the apartment complex. Isn't this reasonable?
As stated earlier, there's no bargaining or "being reasonable" needed here. You are not in the wrong nor do you have to press for the rights you already have.

There's no need to get "into the weeds" with this, nor do you have to navigate the landlord/leasing agent/corporate/etc. quagmire. Simply send in the appropriate documents and a lettter stating your intentions and actions henceforth with full expectation of compliance by the other party.

If in doubt, seek legal counsel.
Or. . . seek legal counsel.

You will pay a small fee. The attorney will write the letter for you and send it in on his/her letterhead.
Done.

Whether COVID or plague or asteriod impact, the reason for things and current situation is irrelevant.

j :happy
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
User avatar
Sandtrap
Posts: 12334
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Location: Hawaii No Ka Oi , N. Arizona
Contact:

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by Sandtrap »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 5:59 pm Here's the wording from my lease about the apartment being uninhabitable:

"If we believe that fire or catastrophic damage to the Apartment is substantial, or that performance of needed repairs poses a danger to you, we may terminate this Lease by giving you written notice. If the Lease is so terminated, we will refund prorated rent and all deposits, less lawful deductions. If the Apartment becomes uninhabitable due to fire or other catastrophic damage not caused by you or your Occupants or guests, we may offer you the opportunity to transfer and sign a new lease and/or a right to return to the Apartment once all repairs have been completed and the Apartment has been returned to a habitable condition."

Any thoughts on this? Also, I'm thinking to hire an attorney to at least write a letter as previously recommended. Does anybody know how to go about finding one?
This is a great lease for "landlords", but do realize that the wording suggests that the landlord if fully empowered and you are not. Not so.
As stated earlier, there's a tacit agreement, by law or code, that a habitable dwelling per agreement is provided to you in return for $ and adherance to lease and so forth. As the dwelling is no longer habitable and vacant, not caused by you, then the agreement/lease/contract is broken.

You can call any attorney in your area that is immediately available to sit down with you for a free initial consultation, then have them write a letter and send it in for you. Done.

Sometimes, there are paralegal offices that also handle such matters for a small fee but in your case, a regular licensed attorney should suffice.
Get on "Google" or the phone book and call for someone close and convenient to you. Make a list of at least 5 or more. They are busy, some will be able to get to it right away, some might not for awhile or not at all.

This may seem to be overwhelming but it is fairly clear cut so just go through the steps and move on. Be sure you are reimbursed where you should be and nothing is left hanging.

Disclaimer: IANAL
Not legal counsel.
Retired.
j :happy
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
denovo
Posts: 4569
Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:04 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by denovo »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:46 pm My wife and I live in a high rise apartment. We're in the 6th month of a 1-year lease. This is our 2nd year here. On October 31, a pipe broke in the apartment above us, causing water damage to 28 apartments. Our apartment was one of the worst hit, as we were right below the source of the water. Water covered most of the floor in the apartment except the kitchen and living room. Also, the drywall was wet in multiple places on the ceiling and walls. The property manager had a restoration company there that same night, and they put blowers and and a dehumidifier in our apartment. They have since removed all the flooring in the apartment and large portions of the drywall. They have not started repairs yet.

Last week, after the flooding, we had a somewhat brief in-person conversation with the property manager to discuss options. At the time, she seemed okay with us breaking the lease early without penalty. She also offered to allow us to move into another apartment in the complex, which we are not really interested in doing after this incident. The property manager was fully aware that we were looking at other apartment complexes over the past weekend. However, when we met with her again today in-person to tell her we had found another apartment complex and were looking to move out in the next week or two, breaking the lease early was suddenly a problem. Apparently, she now tells us that she doesn't have the authority to make such a decision, that she would have to check with corporate, and doing so could take time. I tried putting pressure on her, telling her that I need an answer ASAP so we can make plans.

I have a few questions:
1) Should we pay our November rent? So far we have been unable to live in our apartment this month, so I see no reason to pay rent. At the moment, our insurance company is paying for us to stay in a hotel, and we only have a maximum of $4,000 coverage.
2) Does an incident such as this usually allow a tenant to break the lease early without penalty? I'm in the process of reviewing the lease myself, but I know there are a lot of standard clauses in lease agreements so figured it was worth asking here too.
3) What would likely be the ramifications of us just moving out right now and walking away? Maybe it could hurt our ability to rent in the future? Could it affect our credit score/history?

Also, if anybody has any other input, I'm all ears. Thanks in advance for any insight that anybody here can provide.
Nobody can give you an answer unless you tell us what state you live in. I have no idea why people are comparing their clauses to others without knowing what jurisdiction people live in.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

denovo wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:51 pm Nobody can give you an answer unless you tell us what state you live in. I have no idea why people are comparing their clauses to others without knowing what jurisdiction people live in.
You are absolutely right! We live in Montgomery County, Maryland.
User avatar
Sandtrap
Posts: 12334
Joined: Sat Nov 26, 2016 6:32 pm
Location: Hawaii No Ka Oi , N. Arizona
Contact:

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by Sandtrap »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:58 pm
denovo wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:51 pm Nobody can give you an answer unless you tell us what state you live in. I have no idea why people are comparing their clauses to others without knowing what jurisdiction people live in.
You are absolutely right! We live in Montgomery County, Maryland.
+1
Great catch by "denovo"! :D

All the more reason to seek legal counsel and resolve the issue and move out and on as you indicated you want to do.
Sometimes it is well worth the peace of mind and "less stress" to do things correctly with legal representation rather than get too mired in things yourself.

j :D
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
123
Posts: 6717
Joined: Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:55 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by 123 »

If you wish to have the lease broken by the landlord I would tell them that they have 24 hours to provide your written notice of their decision to terminate the lease or you will contact the local building inspection/code enforcement department to determine if the premises of all impacted units are safe to use or need to be properly "tagged". If there are problems with the infrastructure (including wet wiring) it is possible that units that otherwise seem to be liveable may need to be "tagged".
The closest helping hand is at the end of your own arm.
User avatar
bottlecap
Posts: 6587
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by bottlecap »

I would request a mutual termination and give them a week to answer.

If the landlord refuses, I would consult a lawyer. I would want to know if the fact they offered you another apartment and you declined negates any other argument you may have before I took an ironclad stand on my right to declare the lease terminated.

The rest is just fluff. The fact that there has been a "history" of water problems in the building is a weak reason to decline that offer, especially when you just re-upped 6 months ago after having lived there the previous year.

JT
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

Sandtrap wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:11 pm +1
Great catch by "denovo"! :D

All the more reason to seek legal counsel and resolve the issue and move out and on as you indicated you want to do.
Sometimes it is well worth the peace of mind and "less stress" to do things correctly with legal representation rather than get too mired in things yourself.

j :D
Thanks for all your advice Sandtrap. The general consensus appears to be to seek some legal counsel. I found five landlord and tenant lawyers that offer free consultation for the area in which we live. I'll be reaching out to some or all of them for guidance.
Topic Author
JasonIsMyName
Posts: 7
Joined: Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:56 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by JasonIsMyName »

bottlecap wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:24 am I would request a mutual termination and give them a week to answer.

If the landlord refuses, I would consult a lawyer. I would want to know if the fact they offered you another apartment and you declined negates any other argument you may have before I took an ironclad stand on my right to declare the lease terminated.

The rest is just fluff. The fact that there has been a "history" of water problems in the building is a weak reason to decline that offer, especially when you just re-upped 6 months ago after having lived there the previous year.

JT
Thanks... I see your point about being offered another apartment. However, the way I see it is that the property manager has done absolutely zero leg work on our behalf this entire time. When she mentioned about moving into another apartment in the building, she simply told us to go to the website and see what was available. Why couldn't she do her due diligence, find a comparable, available apartment and offer it to us? Not even once during this whole ordeal has she reached out to us to provide an update, even when I explicitly told her in person one day to give me a call by the end of the day to provide us with an update. It's always us sending an email or walking over to the leasing office to track her down.

I have to disagree about the history of water problems. The other water leaks were nothing compared to this flood. I think it simply highlights that there is a much bigger issue afoot with the original plumbing of this building. Never would I have thought that we would experience something such as this, but clearly the first few leaks must have been a sign. I'm curious to know the company that did the plumbing in this building when it was constructed in 2016 and if all these problems stem from poor workmanship and/or cutting corners. If that's the case, then surely there will be more problems to come.
denovo
Posts: 4569
Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:04 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by denovo »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:58 pm
denovo wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 8:51 pm Nobody can give you an answer unless you tell us what state you live in. I have no idea why people are comparing their clauses to others without knowing what jurisdiction people live in.
You are absolutely right! We live in Montgomery County, Maryland.
I believe most or all states will allow you to break the lease if the unit becomes uninhabitable, but the devil is always in the details as far as procedures that you have to follow and fact-specific things. That's why I am shocked when people feel free to tell you what you should do without even knowing your jurisdiction!

https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia ... yland.html

The Rental Unit Is Unsafe or Violates Maryland Health or Safety Codes
If your landlord does not provide habitable housing under local and state housing codes, a court would probably conclude that you have been “constructively evicted;” this means that the landlord, by supplying unlivable housing, has for all practical purposes “evicted” you, so you have no further responsibility for the rent. Maryland law (Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] § § 8-211, 8-211.1) sets specific requirements for the procedures you must follow before moving out because of a major repair problem. The problem must be truly serious, such as the lack of heat or other essential service.
In other words, you need a lawyer to unpack this. Good luck. There may be some legal organizations that help tenants for free.

Your county also offers some free assistance, it looks like. You should call


https://montgomerycountymd.gov/DHCA/hou ... index.html

The Office of Landlord-Tenant Affairs (Landlord-Tenant Afairs or OLTA) is charged with informing the public of the general rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords and helping resolve disputes amicably, free of charge, without having to go through the District Court process. Landlord-Tenant enforces Chapter 29, Landlord-Tenant Relations of the Montgomery County Code, along with parts of Title 8, Landlord-Tenant of the Real Property Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, the State of Maryland Landlord-Tenant law.

https://www.mdlab.org/contact-us/ <Free Assistance
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln
denovo
Posts: 4569
Joined: Sun Oct 13, 2013 1:04 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by denovo »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:46 pm
1) Should we pay our November rent? So far we have been unable to live in our apartment this month, so I see no reason to pay rent. At the moment, our insurance company is paying for us to stay in a hotel, and we only have a maximum of $4,000 coverage.
2) Does an incident such as this usually allow a tenant to break the lease early without penalty? I'm in the process of reviewing the lease myself, but I know there are a lot of standard clauses in lease agreements so figured it was worth asking here too.
3) What would likely be the ramifications of us just moving out right now and walking away? Maybe it could hurt our ability to rent in the future? Could it affect our credit score/history?

Also, if anybody has any other input, I'm all ears. Thanks in advance for any insight that anybody here can provide.
These are good questions for your lawyer. I would say 90 percent certain no obligation to pay rent.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln
User avatar
bottlecap
Posts: 6587
Joined: Tue Mar 06, 2007 11:21 pm
Location: Tennessee

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by bottlecap »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 2:12 am
bottlecap wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:24 am I would request a mutual termination and give them a week to answer.

If the landlord refuses, I would consult a lawyer. I would want to know if the fact they offered you another apartment and you declined negates any other argument you may have before I took an ironclad stand on my right to declare the lease terminated.

The rest is just fluff. The fact that there has been a "history" of water problems in the building is a weak reason to decline that offer, especially when you just re-upped 6 months ago after having lived there the previous year.

JT
Thanks... I see your point about being offered another apartment. However, the way I see it is that the property manager has done absolutely zero leg work on our behalf this entire time. When she mentioned about moving into another apartment in the building, she simply told us to go to the website and see what was available. Why couldn't she do her due diligence, find a comparable, available apartment and offer it to us? Not even once during this whole ordeal has she reached out to us to provide an update, even when I explicitly told her in person one day to give me a call by the end of the day to provide us with an update. It's always us sending an email or walking over to the leasing office to track her down.

I have to disagree about the history of water problems. The other water leaks were nothing compared to this flood. I think it simply highlights that there is a much bigger issue afoot with the original plumbing of this building. Never would I have thought that we would experience something such as this, but clearly the first few leaks must have been a sign. I'm curious to know the company that did the plumbing in this building when it was constructed in 2016 and if all these problems stem from poor workmanship and/or cutting corners. If that's the case, then surely there will be more problems to come.
Again, these a weak and easily over-comerable arguments. Some of it is mere supposition. Even if you’re right that there was shoddy plumbing work, how will you prove it? A few prior leaks in a building is not proof that a broken pipe means the whole plumbing system is so bad it warrants ending a lease.

You can find out the answers to your questions now, or you can simply walk and find them out later.

There’s a right way to handle this and you’ve got options.

JT
IowaFarmBoy
Posts: 875
Joined: Fri Jan 22, 2010 8:19 am

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by IowaFarmBoy »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:09 pm
anon_investor wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:56 am Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
I'm not sure. The leasing office told me to contact my insurance company, which I did. I explained everything thoroughly to the insurance company. I would imagine that if the insurance company thought that the company that owned the apartment complex should be paying, then they would have pushed back.
This may be a situation where your insurance company will pay you and then subrogate against the owner's insurance to recover what they paid you.
smackboy1
Posts: 1239
Joined: Wed Mar 14, 2007 9:41 pm

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by smackboy1 »

JasonIsMyName wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 1:50 am
Sandtrap wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 11:11 pm +1
Great catch by "denovo"! :D

All the more reason to seek legal counsel and resolve the issue and move out and on as you indicated you want to do.
Sometimes it is well worth the peace of mind and "less stress" to do things correctly with legal representation rather than get too mired in things yourself.

j :D
Thanks for all your advice Sandtrap. The general consensus appears to be to seek some legal counsel. I found five landlord and tenant lawyers that offer free consultation for the area in which we live. I'll be reaching out to some or all of them for guidance.
Yes, contact a local landlord-tenant lawyer. Despite everybody's good intentions, there are really only 2 things that matter:

1) the actual written lease; and
2) local landlord-tenant law

Carefully read the lease. Despite what the agent might say or anybody might tell you, it's the lease terms that matter.

For example: if the lease states that "tenant shall notify landlord of an uninhabitable condition via certified mail and the landlord has 30 days to remedy," then the 30 day clock might not start running until a certified letter is received - despite phone calls and emails to the agent.

Another example: in some states that tenant cannot just unilaterally decide to stop paying rent. In some states tenant must notify landlord of the problem and continue paying rent into an escrow account. It's possible that tenant stopping paying rent is a contract breach that could result in penalties.
Disclaimer: nothing written here should be taken as legal advice, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
BarbBrooklyn
Posts: 911
Joined: Fri Aug 24, 2018 9:33 am
Location: NYC

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by BarbBrooklyn »

IowaFarmBoy wrote: Thu Nov 12, 2020 8:21 am
JasonIsMyName wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 12:09 pm
anon_investor wrote: Wed Nov 11, 2020 10:56 am Why is the apartment building's insurance not pay for your hotel instead of yours? I am not sure how renter's insurance works, but when I owned a condo, a pipe in the wall burst and the building's insurance paid for 100% of the costs of cleanup/repair and we did not have to go through our insurance.
I'm not sure. The leasing office told me to contact my insurance company, which I did. I explained everything thoroughly to the insurance company. I would imagine that if the insurance company thought that the company that owned the apartment complex should be paying, then they would have pushed back.
This may be a situation where your insurance company will pay you and then subrogate against the owner's insurance to recover what they paid you.
This happened to us many years ago with a mystery leak in our apartment. We called our renters insurance, they put us up in a hotel and notified the landlord that THEY would be on the hook for the hotel if the leak was not fixed within 3 days.

The leak got fixed VERY quickly.
BarbBrooklyn | "The enemy of a good plan is the dream of a perfect plan."
User avatar
galawdawg
Posts: 1735
Joined: Thu Dec 14, 2017 12:59 pm
Location: Georgia

Re: Apartment Flooded Looking to Break Lease Early

Post by galawdawg »

Again, IANYL and am not admitted to Maryland. However, reading your lease term on habitability along with the relevant provisions of Maryland Code and the Montgomery County Code, you likely have very limited recourse as far as demanding a lease termination. Your lease leaves that decision with the landlord, who can alternatively offer you an alternative apartment (which they have done) or the ability to return to your apartment when repairs are complete.

You can report the situation to the Montgomery County Office of Landlord-Tenant affairs, (240) 777-0311, and tell them that the apartment is unfit and unlivable and has been so for over ten days. If the inspector finds the apartment to meet the criteria of a life and safety violation, they would require the landlord to repair within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. If they find other violations, they would require repair within fifteen (15) to thirty (30) days from the notice of violation. However, correct me if I am wrong but it sounds like the current issues with the apartment are missing finished flooring and missing sections of drywall. Whether those constitute violations and if so, where those fall within the scheme of violations, is unclear.

If you are not firmly determined to end the lease agreement, you might consider meeting with the property manager again and endeavoring to negotiate a resolution. That could include:
  • Waiving rent until you are in a habitable apartment, and
  • Reasonable relocation expenses (moving labor, phone, cable and utility connection fees, etc), and
  • A discount on the monthly rent for the remaining six months on your lease whether you relocate to the offered vacant apartment or return to your repaired apartment, and
  • If you prefer to return to your apartment, a specified date by which your apartment will be repaired otherwise the lease will be terminated by agreement and your deposit refunded in full.
As I mentioned in my first post, an attorney experienced in landlord-tenant matters will be able to advise you further and if you insist on having your lease terminated, you may require the assistance of an attorney (but recognize that such does not guarantee a result). Good luck!
Post Reply