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Breaking a lease

ErandusErandus Registered User regular
edited September 2009 in Help / Advice Forum
I need some advice on how to try to extricate myself from a lease that I have 4 months left on. I live in Iowa, but I'm not 100% sure of the laws surrounding this for my state. We rent from an independent landlord, not any sort of rental company.

My wife and I originally signed into this lease in Feb of 2008. We have been living in the house for right at 20 months. At the time we signed into the lease, we signed a 2 year agreement predicated on the landlord installing air conditioning in the house, which he did about 3 months after we moved in.

Earlier this month, we decided to buy a house down the street from us. It's an awesome house, and we love it. But we still have time left on our lease, and we're not sure how to go about getting out of it without buying out the remaining months. We will be closing on the new house on the end of October (assuming of course we go through with it, but we were pre approved so nothing is really standing in the way). At that time, there will be 3 months left on the lease.

The house we're living in currently does have some problems, the worst of which is the water. We "share" water with the small apartment attached to the back of the house. There is only 1 water bill, which we are responsible for. There is only 1 water heater. The girl who rents the back apartment has a live-in boyfriend who is not on their lease. Technically he shouldn't be staying there. He gets up about an hour before we do in the morning and immediately takes a 45 minute shower. When we get up there is about 3 minutes of hot water left for us and two kids to use. This naturally doesn't work too well.

There are lots of other nagging issues with the house. Prior to signing the lease it was agreed that air conditioning would be installed before the first summer, and in exchange we would sign a 2 year lease. It was installed, but it has been very flakey, often failing to turn on for hours or even a couple days at a time. We discovered that there was a valve of some sort that had been recalled by the manufacturer. We kept telling the landlord about it, and it wasn't fixed for well over a month. The actual recalled part has still never been replaced, they just exchanged the thermostat panel in the house, assuring us that was the problem. As recently as last week, it is still having issues kicking on.

We also had problems with plumbing leaks (which are fixed but the landlord tried to get us to organize with a plumber to fix it, rather than do it himself. Plus it took a year), and electrical problems (there are several non working outlets and switches in the house which we mentioned almost immediately after moving in, but still are unaddressed).

Is this the sort of thing that we can use to successfully break out of a lease? I am pretty sure landlords are required to provide things such as hot water, and we aren't getting it, or at least nearly enough. Our landlord isn't a bad guy, he just seems a bit lazy and I know he doesn't have a lot of money to throw at fixing the issues, but that's not really our problem.

I really dont want to end up paying 3 months rent to bail on this. There is a security deposit involved, but I dont really care if I get it. I can only assume he can take us to small claims court should he feel inclined to go after the remaining rent. The leftover rental period is extremely short, making subletting unlikely but I can still offer to try.

What say you all? Do I have a case to slide out from under the remaining rent?

[SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]
Erandus on

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    SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Fuck Warren Ellis Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I wouldn't go the route of trying to break the lease via some sort of loophole as you'll probably end up in small claims court - in which the likely outcome is that your landlord will be forced to fix whatever issues are present and you'll still need to honor the rest of the lease.

    Why not talk to your landlord and see if you could sublet the apartment? If you can't find someone at the price you're currently paying you could even look at subsidizing part of the cost. Your landlord might also be able to find a tenant.

    SatanIsMyMotor on
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Yeah, my other option is to lay the situation out and see what sort of agreement we can come to without resorting to the whole "Your apartment sucks, we're leaving -- Oh yeah well I'll see you in court" thing.

    I don't have any idea how flexible he's going to feel like being. I can try to sublet, but I live in a tiny, tiny town.

    Erandus on
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    RUNN1NGMANRUNN1NGMAN Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    In my humble opinion, none of those issues satisfy the common law definition of constructive eviction, which would allow you to immediately move out and withhold rent. Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction, if you don't immediately move out you waive your right to claim constructive eviction, and if you live in one of those jurisdictions that claim is probably not available to you now.

    The most hassle-free option for you is to get the landlord to allow you to assign the lease to a new renter, which basically means that you transfer the lease to them. You want to avoid sub-letting, because then you basically become the landlord for the new renter.

    RUNN1NGMAN on
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    underdonkunderdonk __BANNED USERS regular
    edited September 2009
    Talk to the landlord and be honest.

    underdonk on
    Back in the day, bucko, we just had an A and a B button... and we liked it.
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Ok, I'll try that approach.

    Erandus on
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    Zombie NirvanaZombie Nirvana Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Alternatively you could try and stretch the closing date on the house out a bit and then you might not have the full four months of lease payments.

    Zombie Nirvana on
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    MrMonroeMrMonroe passed out on the floor nowRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    remember you also have the option of renting out your new house while living in this apartment if talking to him fails

    MrMonroe on
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    If I stretch out the closing date, I won't be able to snag the interest rate I'm currently being offered, and everyone I've spoken to about this is telling me that the rate will be going up if I put off any longer.

    I "could" rent out the new house, but for 4 months...? Plus I want to move into it. :P

    Erandus on
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    DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    four months is plenty of notice for the landlord. You can probably work something out friendly like where you forfeit some of the security for an early agreeable termination.

    I mean, he is probably going to be a little worse off here seeing as how the rents were likely a bit higher when you signed the lease.

    Deebaser on
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    He wouldn't be getting 4 months notice. At this point he'd be getting a month and a half, give or take. I would want to move out at the end of October, but the lease doesn't expire until the end of January.

    I would honestly be fine forfeiting the entire security deposit in exchange for an amiable break of the lease.

    Erandus on
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    DeebaserDeebaser on my way to work in a suit and a tie Ahhhh...come on fucking guyRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Erandus wrote: »
    He wouldn't be getting 4 months notice. At this point he'd be getting a month and a half, give or take. QUOTE]

    My bad, Im semi retarded today.

    Deebaser on
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    khainkhain Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Make sure you go back over you're lease as some do have terms to break it, usually involving paying X number of months ahead of time. If not then you can potentially talk to you're landlord as others have suggested and see if he'll let you break it and if that doesn't work you can always try subletting, which once again you should read the lease as it may have specific terms.

    khain on
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    Zombie NirvanaZombie Nirvana Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Erandus wrote: »
    If I stretch out the closing date, I won't be able to snag the interest rate I'm currently being offered, and everyone I've spoken to about this is telling me that the rate will be going up if I put off any longer.

    I "could" rent out the new house, but for 4 months...? Plus I want to move into it. :P

    You can lock your interest rate for however long you need to if you're concerned about rates changing. Should be much cheaper than paying double (if that be the end result of this).

    Zombie Nirvana on
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    I'm going to talk to him tonight and go with the path of being reasonable and open. Not going to do anything drastic like change my closing date until I feel out his opinion on the matter. If he's upset in any way, I will offer to let him keep the security deposit and attempt to find a sublet for the apartment.

    Erandus on
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    VisionOfClarityVisionOfClarity Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Erandus wrote: »
    We "share" water with the small apartment attached to the back of the house. There is only 1 water bill, which we are responsible for.

    This isn't legal pretty much anywhere. He can't force you to pay for your neighbors utilities. I'm surprised you put up with this for so long. Iowa's website sucks for finding info out so I'd suggest calling the state housing board and seeing what advice they have.

    VisionOfClarity on
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    SatanIsMyMotorSatanIsMyMotor Fuck Warren Ellis Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    Erandus wrote: »
    If I stretch out the closing date, I won't be able to snag the interest rate I'm currently being offered, and everyone I've spoken to about this is telling me that the rate will be going up if I put off any longer.

    I "could" rent out the new house, but for 4 months...? Plus I want to move into it. :P

    You can lock your interest rate for however long you need to if you're concerned about rates changing. Should be much cheaper than paying double (if that be the end result of this).

    No you can't. In Canada you can lock it in for 3 months but, beyond that, it will go up. I'm sure it must be the same in the States as well.

    SatanIsMyMotor on
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    deadonthestreetdeadonthestreet Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    In many states if you break a lease your landlord has to try and fill your apartment, and if it is filled you don't have to pay. So even if you do break it there's a decent chance you won't have to pay all the rent.

    Not your lawyer, etc...

    deadonthestreet on
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    Zombie NirvanaZombie Nirvana Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    You can go longer than 3 months in the states, but that is obviously not necessary given this situation.

    Zombie Nirvana on
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    FiggyFiggy Fighter of the night man Champion of the sunRegistered User regular
    edited September 2009
    You can go longer than 3 months in the states, but that is obviously not necessary given this situation.

    It depends on the lender.

    OP: Just tell your landlord that it isn't working out. Don't tell him that you've purchased a house 4 months too early and want out of your lease. Tell him that your living conditions aren't meeting your expectations, and stress the part about the problems with the shared water heater.

    You might want to call up your local housing tribunal/council and find out if that is legal. If it isn't, you can tell your landlord,

    "I understand that the current water heater situation in this house is not exactly legal, but I'm not interested in the stress of going to court over this. I would much rather just give you my notice to vacate on X DATE (make this a week after your new house's possession date). I need a more acceptable environment for my family."

    Figgy on
    XBL : Figment3 · SteamID : Figment
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    ErandusErandus Registered User regular
    edited September 2009
    That seems reasonably well worded, Figgy, thank you very much. I'll try to look up housing codes for central Iowa and call the city hall-shack tomorrow and see what they have to say about it.

    I didn't get a chance to call my landlord tonight, but it's on my list for tomorrow after I follow up on Figgy's suggestions. I appreciate all the advice here, thank you all.

    Erandus on
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