Author Topic: Help Getting out of Lease  (Read 716 times)

MFG_Hotspur

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Help Getting out of Lease
« on: January 20, 2018, 09:09:33 AM »
My mother-in-law rents in Massachusetts and is breaking her lease given the lack of response from her landlord to fix any of the issues with the house she is renting. I am a guarantor on the lease agreement and would like to know the possible repercussions for both me and her.

To sum up, there are/have been two types of issues:
  • A number of smaller maintenance issues the landlord refuses to address. She will send a guy over to look at it, he agrees something needs to happen, he never gets approval from the landlord, nothing happens, and no timetable is established to fix anything. This has happened with unstable front steps, doors that need to get replaced, holes in the outside wall that needs to get patched, etc. This caused parts of the house to never get warm throughout the winter despite how much she would turn up the heat
  • There are holes going into the basement and roof allowing squirrels and rats to get into both areas. She is allowed to store stuff in the basement and everything in the basement is now covered in feces. After about a month of complaining they finally sent an exterminator over who patched up the wholes and put poison in both the roof and basement. It seems like the exterminator trapped the animals inside the house and now there is no where to go but the actual house due to the poison. My MIL now sees there is feces throughout her cabinets and they aren't really doing anything else

The issues listed in (1) were bearable and with her moving to where we are after this lease was up, she was going to stick it out for another 8 months. The issues in (2) are a health hazard and pretty unbearable and she is now moving as a result.

All of these issues are well documented over email and the Board of Health has been involved and advocating for her because both her and her son have disabilities.

She has already found a place to move into on 1/30 and gave notice that she is leaving over email and listed all of these reasons again in that email. She even gave the landlord about 45 days notice and said she would be out by the end of February (and will pay for that month).

I'm trying to figure out what the landlord can do in this situation and what other things I/she should be doing to make sure they can't say we didn't give notice or that we on the hook for rent after February. Thoughts?

YttriumNitrate

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Re: Help Getting out of Lease
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2018, 09:59:51 AM »
What does the lease say? Guarantors are put on leases when landlords suspect there might be problems in the future, so read through the lease you signed.

MFG_Hotspur

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Re: Help Getting out of Lease
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2018, 07:30:39 PM »
To clarify, I am the guarantor because my MIL is collecting SSDI and while she has enough to pay rent, they wanted more insurance that she would be able to pay rent. She owned previously and has no past history of being a bad tenant.

Regarding the lease, it doesn't say much about the landlord's responsibility, but there are tenant-landlord laws that she is clearly violating. I found this online which seems to back me and my MIL in this case:

"Section 127L. When violations of the standards of fitness for human habitation as established in the state sanitary code, or of other applicable laws, ordinances, by-laws, rules or regulations, may endanger or materially impair the health, safety or well-being of a tenant of residential premises and are so certified by the board of health or local code enforcement agency, or in the cities of Boston, Worcester and Cambridge by the commissioner of housing inspection, or by a court of law, and if the owner or his agent has been notified in writing of the existence of the violations and has failed to begin all necessary repairs or to contract in writing with a third party for such repairs within five days after such notice, and to substantially complete all necessary repairs within fourteen days after such notice, unless a board of health, local code enforcement agency or court has ordered that said violations be corrected within a shorter period, in which case said period shall govern, the tenant or tenants may repair or have repaired the defects or conditions constituting the violations. The tenant or tenants may subsequently deduct from any rent which may subsequently become due, subject to the provisions of the following paragraph, an amount necessary to pay for such repairs. The tenant or tenants may, alternatively in such cases, treat the lease or rental agreement as abrogated, pay only the fair value of their use and occupation and vacate the premises within a reasonable time."

Is there anything in particular you think I should be looking for in the lease? I read the whole thing a couple times and I don't see anything that is relevant to this specific case so I am deferring to the laws in Massachusetts cited above.

Car Jack

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Re: Help Getting out of Lease
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2018, 08:58:22 AM »
Look for free legal aid in your city/town.  Massachusetts is VERY tenant friendly and isn't afraid to assess penalties, triple them and give the tenants compensation. 

former player

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Re: Help Getting out of Lease
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2018, 09:26:44 AM »
1.  Ask the Board of Health to certify that the property is unfit for habitation by your MIL and her son as set out in the state sanitary code or other relevant ordinances, laws, rules or regulations.

2.  Send a registered letter (something where you can prove delivery to the landlord and the date of delivery) setting out the violations which are currently ongoing.  You can do this immediately if you know what violations the Board of Health is going to say make it unfit  (tell the Board of Health what you think these are when you ask for the certificate).

3.  Wait 5 days after the letter is received to see if the landlord starts repairs or shows you a contract for repairs.  If work is started or a contract is in place, wait 14 days after the letter to see if the work is completed.  "Completed" means that the matters certified by the Board of Health have all been substantially dealt with.

4.  If the repairs aren't started within 5 days or done within 14 days then your plan of paying rent until the end of February and treating the lease as abrogated after that date seems to be within the tenant's rights as set out in the final sentence of Section 127L.

Definitely run this course of action by a free legal advice service or citizens' advice service or housing advice and advocacy organisation in the area where your MIL lives.