When you sign an apartment lease, you agree to uphold the terms of that document. Some municipalities have landlord-tenant ordinances that give additional rights to tenants, but a tenant can’t decide to terminate their lease without taking the proper steps to do so.

Q: I have a small question, I’m from Cleveland, Ohio. I had one-year apartment lease and I broke that lease after 10 months which was two months before the end of the term. Before that I talked to the property owner about the noise that I had from my neighbor and asked them to relocate me to another unit in the building. But they couldn’t because there was no other available apartment.

In short, I had to move out. And then I received a letter from an attorney for the landlord and a summons to go to court. Can you please tell me how to get out of this? I am quite serious there was a lot of noise!

A: We’re sorry to say but you can’t just “get out of it.” You signed a lease and when you signed it, you agreed to the terms and conditions of that document. Just because your neighbor was noisy doesn’t automatically give you the right to break your lease. There may have been other remedies available to you under the lease or under the city ordinances or laws in the state in which you live.

You should go back to the landlord and discuss the situation. Maybe you can negotiate with the landlord to pay some of what was owed (without the landlord spending more money on legal fees) – but not everything.

Depending on the particulars of your situation, you might have been required to give written notice to your landlord of your inability to live in the unit due to problems in the building. Whether the noise was a sufficient issue to cause you to “vacate” your unit is a legal issue that you might have to discuss with an attorney at this late date, but “talking” to an owner about a problems may be quite different that writing a letter to him stating that you are unable to live in and use the apartment due to the noise issue.

If you can’t negotiate an end to this, you should hire an attorney who can negotiate with the landlord’s attorney and resolve this without further legal action. And do it soon, because you only have a certain number of days to respond to the attorney if you have been sued by the landlord.

As we mentioned, some remedies available to you might differ from one place to another. Some local municipalities have enacted landlord-tenant ordinances that give additional rights to tenants. When landlords fail to abide by the requirements of those ordinances, tenants are given the right to terminate their leases.

These ordinances frequently deal with security deposit issues and the payment of interest on security deposits. They also require landlords to return security deposits to tenants within a certain time period.

If we take a step back to look at your situation, you signed a lease for 12 months and you were required to pay rent for the 12 months. You “got out of it” after 10 months and your landlord is probably suing you for the two months you owe. If you can’t negotiate a solution with the landlord or find a reason permitted under your lease, your state laws or under a local ordinance to get out of the lease, you might have to pay the two months rent left under the lease.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a lease doesn’t allow a tenant to take unilateral action to terminate unless the tenant has the legal right to do so and the tenant has taken the required steps under the lease and under the law.

©2017 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

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