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LANDLORD & TENANT: Can You Terminate the Lease When a Fellow Tenant Makes Serious Threats?

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | May 6, 2010

A resident of Bristol, PA posted the following question on the AVVO website:

How can I break lease and get security deposit back being threated by other tenants due to my race? Cops and landlord made aware.

How can I break my lease and get my deposit back. I no longer feel safe where I reside. I was threaten by an upstair tenant that she would have someone break into my home and kill me cause I am a in her words “Spic”. I no longer feel safe in my home. I made the landlord aware of the threat. The cops were also told; however, the town in which I live some of the cops don’t like minorities to much. What can I do?? I need help to be able to break my lease and find a safe place where I can live and not have a problem because I am a minority.

Here is the answer I posted in reply:

Take a look at your lease.  Many leases say that you have a right to quiet enjoyment of the premises and even if it does not, it is implied under the law.  Write a letter to your landlord and request to be let out of the lease, stating the same reasons set forth above. Keep a copy.  Perhaps your landlord will let you move to another building.

If you have no success, you may wish send a notice declaring the lease terminated and simply move.  Send this notice certified mail and keep a copy, together will the certified mail receipts. After you move, send another letter well within 30 days containing your new address and requesting the deposit.

Now, you may have to go to the magistrate’s office to defend yourself at a hearing and you may just lose the case.  You then will have to decide whether to appeal to arbitration.  Of course, if you win at the magistrate’s, the landlord might appeal.  And you both have the right to appeal to a judge after the arbitration decision.

In short, you are going to have to be willing to take a risk that you might lose.  Whether you win or lose is going to depend a great deal on how convincing your evidence is.  It would certainly help to have a good corroborating witness.


CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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