Q: Breaking Lease Early due to assault
Not too long ago, my roommate, girlfriend, and I were attacked on our front porch by a neighbor in which we do not know the name of or where they are in the neighborhood. We then filed assault and informed the landlord. Since then, this neighbor has stalked me constantly as I’ve noticed him when working on my car or grabbing mail. My roommate and girlfriend are too scared to leave the home anymore.
I live in an apartment in Virginia. I've updated my landlord of each situation. Everyone in my household wants to move out as soon as possible as we are all very fearful of being attacked again. How can I get out of my lease early? I’ve read through the lease multiple times and there doesn’t seem to be anything we can do.
A: Step one is a lease review, and a lay person review isn't the same as a lawyer review. But, if you are certain that you have no alternatives there, the next step is to negotiate a termination with the landlord. The fact that a third party unrelated to the landlord has threatened you is possibly, but improbably, relevant. If you have a criminal complaint for assault, battery, stalking, threats, or something else, that should be discussed with the police. The landlord is unlikely to be your ally if your objective is terminating the lease. But, negotiations led by a lawyer who is reviewing your case for a possible premises liability claim against the landlord may result in a settlement in which you abandon your security deposit but limit your liability for the remainder of the lease. If you do not have a settlement, you should not assume that the landlord will not pursue a judgment for your rent through the end of the lease, but there is a requirement for mitigation of damages. How that applies to your lease will depend on the lease, the location, and whether you can get a replacement tenant who is economically similar to you. All of this can get complex without legal counsel, which I strongly recommend you retain.
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