The Elevator Is Continuously Out of Order. Can I Break My Lease?

Q: My husband and I moved right into a seventh-floor rental condominium in a prewar constructing in Riverdale final fall. The constructing has one elevator, which was changed only a few years in the past, nevertheless it has been breaking down not less than as soon as every week since December. We’re ageing up towards 70, and with an older canine within the condominium, seven flights up and down just a few instances a day is taking a toll. Can we break our two-year lease and never be held to the settlement primarily based on this ongoing situation?

A: You may have a number of choices value exploring. In New York State, seniors have sure “special rights” in relation to renting residences. For instance, relying on the place you see your self dwelling subsequent, tenants who’re not less than 62 years previous could terminate their lease with out penalty in the event that they’re transferring right into a well being care facility, senior housing complicated or authorities backed housing, mentioned Andrew Scherer, a professor of regulation at New York Legislation Faculty and the writer of “Residential Landlord-Tenant Legislation in New York.”

As a result of the defective elevator has created a well being hazard, you additionally may doubtlessly break your lease and declare that you’ve been “constructively evicted,” Mr. Scherer mentioned. In accordance with Cornell Legislation Faculty’s Authorized Info Institute, constructive eviction may be claimed in courtroom when a tenant has moved out of a rental unit over a problem that triggered the unit to turn out to be unlivable, and the owner has did not resolve the issue regardless of being notified.

Mr. Scherer famous that the owner is legally obligated to to relet the condominium for those who go away earlier than the lease ends. “The tenant won’t be chargeable for hire for the rest of the lease if the owner both relets the condominium or fails to take cheap steps to relet,” he mentioned, although he instructed consulting an lawyer earlier than pursuing any authorized choice.

Should you select to remain, there are different routes you would take. Failure to maintain the elevator functioning “is a breach of the owner’s obligation to take care of the residence,” Mr. Scherer mentioned. So you would be entitled to a discount of hire for the months you’ve gone with out it working correctly. You additionally may band together with your neighbors and kind a tenants’ affiliation to “start a authorized continuing to acquire a courtroom order to pressure the owner to repair the issue,” he mentioned. You possibly can do that alone, too, however having extra folks on board will solely assist your possibilities.

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