Do You Have A Legal Reason to End the Lease?
You have the right to legally terminate your lease under certain conditions, which almost always exist. If you do that, you are not “breaking” the lease, at all, but legally ending it, regardless of what the lease says. Civil Code 1942 is your ticket. If there is any condition in your place that is “uninhabitable” [see list], you can use that to get out of the lease. You only need to tell the landlord about it [in any way], and have no response within a reasonable time [undefined, but based upon the circumstances]. It can be a trivial thing that you don’t even care about, just so long as it is an “uninhabitable” condition, like an electrical outlet where one socket doesn’t work, or a screen missing a window. Even if your real motivation to move is to take care of your mom back East, you need a legal reason to terminate the lease and get out with minimum hassle.
There are several legal reasons to terminate your lease:
1. Uninhabitable conditions, which only need to affect habitability, not necessarily unlivable, and which may include:
a. Infestations of cockroaches, rats, or other vermin
b. Noxious odors, such as from sewage leaks, mold and mildew, dead rats in the walls, pigeons nesting in the attic
c. Noisy neighbors in your building, or
d. Criminal activity in the building or neighborhood, such as drugs and gangs
2. An illegal unit, such as an illegally converted garage, basement, or attached structure you’re living in [a common situation]
3. Government closing down the building, due to:
a. severe illegalities, such as construction without proper building permits, a dangerous structure, and zoning violations
b. fire or other structural damage [red or yellow tagging]
c. earthquake, flooding, or other natural disaster damage [red or yellow tagging], or
d. demolition by the government, such as for Redevelopment goals, eminent domain, tax lien sale, drug-related confiscation
4. Death, severe hospitalization, incarceration, or insanity of the tenant [your legal representative would handle this]
5. Bankruptcy of the tenant [Chapter 7, or abandoning the lease in a Chapter 11 or 13 Bankruptcy proceeding ]
6. The person who rented it to you may not have had the right to do so, because:
a. The person was not the owner, or authorized by the owner, to lease it [a scam used by some con-men]
b. The person was an unlicensed property manager, whose contracts are void [there are many of these]
c. The person was a tenant, who was not authorized to sub-lease or assign the place to you by their rental agreement, or
d. The business entity that is supposed to be your landlord doesn’t legally exist [such as a corporation, that isn’t one]
7. The lease may be tied to a job on the premises, which you quit, such as a resident manager, grounds keeper, etc.
8. The landlord lost the land by foreclosure, and the bank or new owner took over, but you haven’t paid rent to them, yet.
9. The lease is oral, but is for more than a year by its terms, making it void under the Statute of Frauds as a legal matter.