When you signed the lease, the apartment seemed perfect. But a few months in, and the outside walls have been graffitied, a window has been broken, or your car has been vandalized. Your perfect home no longer seems so ideal. Lease laws vary from state to state. If the vandalism is not determined to be a legal reason for breaking the lease by your state, you may have financial obligations should you decide to move out.
Consequences and Responsibilities
If you do decide to move out because of vandalism, be aware of the consequences. Review your lease carefully. Some leases have a clause that lets you break the lease if you give 30 or 60 days notice. Other leases expect you to pay the rent on the place until the lease ends or until the landlord finds another renter. In many cases, you will lose your security deposit. You may wish to find a person to sublet or take over your lease. You will have to get permission from your landlord to do this.
Legal Grounds to Break a Lease
If the vandalism is bad enough to make the house or apartment uninhabitable, you may be able to break the lease. For example, in the state of California, a landlord must provide a space that is "free from debris, filth, rubbish, garbage, rodents, and vermin." If the landlord does not make an attempt to clean up the garbage or any damage from vandalism that makes the space uninhabitable, the tenant may have a recourse to break the lease, but competent legal counsel should be sought to make a determination.
In most cases, the best response to vandalism is a quick one. If the outside of your building is graffitied, ask your landlord to clean it right away. The same is true if a window is broken. Repairing the window promptly helps deter further vandalism, according to Markisan Naso in the "Journal of Property Management." If vandalism of your car is the issue, do not leave anything of value visible in the car. This includes coins, a stereo or clothing. You can also ask the police to patrol the area near your home, which may deter future vandals.
Vandalism that affects your personal property is not covered by your landlord. For example, if a vandal throws a brick through your front window and it knocks over and breaks a vase, you have to pay to replace the vase. Renter's insurance covers items that are broken or lost in the event of vandalism. It also covers items that a vandal may steal from your apartment or items that are damaged as a result of a natural disaster.
- Arizona Community Action Program: Arizona Tenant's Rights and Responsibilities Handbook(PDF)
- MSN Real Estate: Breaking Your Lease
- NoLo: What Happens When a Tenant Breaks a Lease?
- University of Illinois Tenant Union: Breaking a Lease
- Inman News: Vandalism, Insects, Mold, When Can I Break a Lease?
- Home Ec 101: 5 Reasons to Have Renter's Insurance
- California Dept. of Consumer Affairs: Dealing with Problems
- Journal of Property Management: Vanquishing Vandals