Must I Continue Paying Rent After the Crazy Roommate Drove Me Out?

Can I move out of my rental because of my roommate's behavior?

Question

I signed a lease for a condo with another woman. She then started calling the police, saying I was acting weird; she was hassling me because I would not give her money. I was afraid of being arrested because of her allegations, so I moved out and sent the landlord a letter saying it was impossible to stay because I was extremely afraid of the person's conduct, concerned for my safety, welfare and possible false arrest. Does the law permit leaving under such circumstances?

Answer

It sounds like you absolutely did the right thing, from a safety standpoint. You won't necessarily be excused from being responsible for the rent, though.

Until the landlord terminates a lease, a tenant usually must pay the rent unless the landlord fails to maintain the rental in a livable condition. However, some states provide special legal protections for tenants who are victims of domestic violence. Whether a situation rises to the level of domestic violence depends on state domestic violence laws and the specific circumstances. Consider contacting your local law enforcement agency to discuss your options, or reach out to one of the many organizations and government units that exist to provide assistance to victims.

If you could turn back the hands of time, it would have been better to approach the landlord before you moved out, explaining the situation and asking to be let out of the lease. Most landlords will excuse a tenant if the situation is truly dangerous, but might be less likely to listen to your tale after you've gone and they're left looking for the lost rental income. Hopefully, your former landlord will simply look to your former cotenant for the full rent, rather than hold you liable for breaching the lease. If your landlord does approach you, a local landlord-tenant attorney can help you navigate the situation.

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