Is the Property Habitable?
There are many things to consider in breaking a lease. In Philadelphia, PA every landlord has a legal obligation to provide fit and habitable property to the Tenant. See Pugh v. Holmes, 486 Pa. 272 (1979). For example, if the property you are living in requires serious repairs you may be able to walk-away from a lease obligation. In such cases the landlord is in breach of the lease and therefore, you may be able to argue that your contractual obligations are unenforceable.
Is Landlord Compliant With Law?
You may be able to break a lease by arguing the landlord is non-compliant with the law. For example, if your landlord has not provided a Certificate of Rental Suitability or Partners for Good Housing Handbook he cannot legally collect rent. If she is not licensed with the City of Philadelphia to rent her property (i.e., landlord must have a housing license) a tenant may argue the lease is legally void. Finally, if there are any open Licenses and Inspections Violations on the Property the tenant may argue this constitutes a substantial violations of the leasehold. Non-compliance with the Philadelphia Property Maintenance Code may be a legitimate basis for breaking the lease since the Landlord is non-compliant with the law.
Are There Any Damages?
If you break your lease early but landlord suffers no damages there is little incentive to initiate a lawsuit. For example, if a tenant moves out of the property but finds another tenant to replace them the landlord has lost no rental income. If there is no lost rental income the landlord may not have damages to justify a lawsuit against the tenant. Further, if the case proceeds to court the landlord may be asked to provide proof of what actions they took to mitigate damages. For example, if a tenant vacates the property and it is left empty for several months, the landlord may be required to show she made an effort to show the property to prospective tenants before collecting against the defaulting tenant. In situations where another tenant has moved into the property, a lawsuit against the former tenant may be of limited merit.
Walk Away From Security Deposit?
While it may be relatively easy to break a residential lease in Philadelphia, PA the tenant may have to accept losing their security deposit. In cases where Tenant breaks a lease with Landlord, it is unlikely the deposit will be returned even if a forwarding address is provided. If such an address is provided to Landlord it may facilitate a lawsuit against the Tenant for breach of lease. Further, if Tenant brings a lawsuit against Landlord for their security deposit it may incentive Landlord to bring legal action against Tenant for breaking the lease early. Therefore, before breaking the lease the Tenant should consider that prepaid monies may not be returned, and will be hard to recover in a court of law.
Send a Letter to the Landlord
A lawyer may be able to assist you with drafting a letter to facilitate breaking your lease. Such a letter may memorialize the terms and conditions of your termination, lay out the specific basis for lease termination, and/or offer to negotiate a settlement with Landlord concerning prepaid monies, security deposit, and any other outstanding issues. If the landlord is aware that you are represented by counsel they may hesitant to engage in litigation, knowing that under such circumstances you may file a counterclaim for return of monies owed. If you have any questions concerning landlord-tenant law in Philadelphia, PA contact our office for a free consultation. Our office can be reached at 267-535-9776 during regular business hours.
In the below video, Mark D. Copoulos discusses some methods that may be helpful in negotiating the end of a lease term. Please note this blog is provided for merely informational purposes and is not intended as legal advice. If you have specific questions concerning your legal matter, please schedule a free consultation with a Philadelphia Landlord Tenant Lawyer.