Navigating the complexities of leasing contracts can be especially challenging when you’re looking to get out of a lease for mental health reasons.
Severe conditions like Alzheimer’s disease Down syndrome autism bipolar disorder or any form of mental impairment can make maintaining a lease strenuous.
However it’s crucial to be aware of one’s rights and consult a professional landlord-tenant lawyer.
An alternative arrangement may be available such as invoking the SCRA Protection Letter if you are a uniformed service member or submitting a reasonable accommodations request under federal and state fair housing laws.
But can mental health truly be a legal reason to terminate a lease?
And what about the consequences to one’s credit score or potential eviction records?
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Can You Break Your Lease For Mental Health?
Yes you can break your lease due to mental health issues if your condition is protected under applicable laws such as the Federal Fair Housing Act which prohibits discrimination in housing due to disability.
In some states like New York disabled tenants may terminate their lease if certified by a doctor as no longer being able to live independently and require daily assistance for major life activities.
Briefly if your mental health condition qualifies as a disability with the right verification and proper steps you may be allowed to break your lease as a reasonable accommodation. Notable examples of these conditions or impairments include conditions such as bipolar disorder depression anxiety post-traumatic stress disorder autism and organic brain syndrome such as Alzheimer’s disease or Down syndrome.
Qualifying For Fair Housing Laws
Qualifying for protection under the fair housing laws requires a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits major life activities. It is important to note that drug addiction and alcoholism qualify as mental impairments under these laws.
A Delaware appeals court confirmed that individuals with a mental impairment could qualify as a reasonable accommodation for breaking a lease. Verification from a third-party like a psychiatrist may be required to confirm the disability in writing.
However landlords are under no obligation to take into account tenants’ inability to pay rent due to a disability.
Another way to qualify is relocating for medical care or treatment especially if the current apartment complicates the mental health condition such as a tenant with mental illness living in a high-stress downtown area – a relocation for stress-free or reduced environment would be considered a reasonable accommodation.
State laws also play a pivotal role. For instance California offers similar protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act whereas some states lack such explicit laws permitting lease termination for mental health reasons.
Tenant Options For Breaking A Lease
If you’re dealing with a mental health issue that impairs your major life activities you may be eligible to break your lease under federal fair housing laws such as the Fair Housing Act. This Act prohibits housing discrimination based on disability which includes mental illnesses.
As a tenant you can leverage these protections to safeguard your rights. To break a lease due to a mental health condition legally you’ll need to:
- Prove your mental health condition
- Show that your condition is protected under applicable laws
- Demonstrate that early termination of your lease is a reasonable accommodation
Protections Under State Laws
State laws can also work in your favor. In New York tenants with disabilities can terminate their lease if a doctor certifies they can no longer live independently.
Similarly in California tenants with mental disabilities have additional protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Here landlords must provide reasonable accommodations.
Breaking Lease Without Permission
If your mental health condition doesn’t classify as a disability you still have options. One is to carefully review your lease find a replacement tenant communicate with your landlord or terminate your lease early.
However terminating your lease without permission should be your last resort.
This method is risky and may result in you being liable for the remaining rental payments. Besides the landlord may legally report the incidence to credit reporting agencies negatively affecting your credit score.
They can also start legal proceedings against you.
Landlord Mitigation Effort
The landlord bears the responsibility of mitigating damages by finding a replacement tenant. Should they fail you may have to cover the costs.
The landlord is also required to make efforts in mitigating damages by immediately finding a new tenant.
Credit Score and Legal Consequences
If you break your lease without permission it could negatively impact your credit score. It could lead to legal action by your landlord further compounding your troubles during a time already marked by mental illness.
Consequences Of Breaking A Lease
Breaking a lease is a serious matter and comes with consequences. Such an act is considered a breach of contract and the aftermath can range from financial loss to legal outcomes.
The tenant may be required to pay compensation usually the remaining rent payment. Landlords may impose fines or termination fees.
In addition to mitigating damages landlords can report lease violations to credit reporting agencies. This will affect the tenant’s credit score making it difficult to secure future rental agreements or acquire loans.
It’s also possible for landlords to take the matter to court leading to legal consequences.
If a landlord files an eviction lawsuit public records will show this. Such a mark on the tenant’s record can make future housing applications challenging as most landlords conduct credit and background checks.