Arlington, VA asked in Real Estate Law for Virginia

Q: Can I break my lease due to unhealthy conditions?

My apartment complex claimed to be smoke free. On a daily basis, cigarette and marijuana smoke come into my apartment from neighboring apartments. I let the management know, but it is still happening. This has been affecting my health as I do not smoke. Can I break my lease without penalty? Is that a strong enough reason to break the lease? I bought air purifiers, used weather stripping tape to seal the doors, but the smoke seems to be coming through the walls.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Elizabeth Crego
Elizabeth Crego
  • Licensed in Virginia

A: You may be able to force the apartment complex to let you out of your lease, depending on how bad the situation is and how definitively the apartment has prohibited smoking. You may have a harder time proving that the situation exists and is dangerous to your health than you think. The process for breaking the lease "penalty free" can also be difficult, often requiring the filing of a lawsuit, accrual of attorneys fees (which you may not recover fully), and months of waiting and negotiating. I recommend determining whether the hassle of going through that process is worth not paying the penalty they likely offer to get out immediately and calling an attorney to discuss further.

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