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How can I break my lease without penalty?

Asked by user in Virginia.

On October 24, 2020, the home I rented was shot up (16 bullets with me in the home). My landlord allowed me to move out, but said I would be responsible for rent and utilities until someone else moved in. What are my rights?

Answered by Enjuris Editors:

I’m so sorry this happened to you.

Landlords in Virginia have a legal duty to make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition (Virginia Code 55-225.3). It’s possible that your apartment would be deemed uninhabitable due to the shooting, particularly if there’s extensive damage or reason to believe the apartment may be “shot up” again.

If the apartment is in fact uninhabitable, you must give the landlord a reasonable time to resolve the issue (the landlord might do this by, for example, repairing the damage and installing security lights). If the landlord fails to resolve the issue, only then will you be excused from paying rent.

It’s best to resolve this issue with your landlord personally, if possible. If you can’t resolve the issue, you might consider seeking free legal assistance from the Virginia State Bar.

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