Is it legal to break a lease agreement because of medical conditions?

By Tenant

A medical condition that arises after a lease agreement has been signed is something that might require huge changes on both the landlord and the tenant. Special accommodations need to be made and if they cannot be made, a lease agreement might be broken. If this the case, is it right for a landlord to still charge early termination fees and penalties?

Let’s look at an example.

My mother-in-law is renting a unit in the second floor of an apartment complex. Just last week, she suffered from a heart attack and was advised a no-stairs apartment. We went to the office of the apartment manager and told them of the situation. We even brought the doctor’s recommendation as proof. We asked if it’s possible to move her to a unit on the first floor and if that can’t be done, we asked if we could break the lease agreement early.

I was hoping they’d do some amendments, seeing that my mother-in-law is no longer fit to use the stairs. Apparently, they just wanted the money. They said that there is  no unit available in the first floor and that they will still charge her the termination fee for breaking the lease early. That wasn’t very fair, was it?

So I filed a formal complaint against them through the RPA mediation center. My mother-in-law got to move but she had to go through the eye of a needle just to do that. If this happens to you, a friend or a family member, here are the things that you must know.

  1. Bring the medical certificate, photocopy it and request to have it notarized. Then submit a copy to your landlord.
  2. Look for a provision in your state tenant laws regarding the early termination of lease due to a medical condition.
  3. File a complaint with a mediation copy.
  4. If you have a lawyer-friend, ask them a favor and have them write a letter in your behalf. A letter with a lawyer’s header is much more forceful and sometimes does the job done.

Generally, you cannot be forced to keep a lease agreement if it will not benefit your medical condition. The landlord needs to make some adjustments like providing you with a ramp, moving you to a unit in the first floor or installing with a special 30 amp 220v circuit for any medical equipment that you may need to use.

If the landlords cannot accommodate these, then they should release you from a lease agreement.

Edited on: Monday, December 2nd, 2013 4:55 am

10 Responses to “Is it legal to break a lease agreement because of medical conditions?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


February 13th, 2013 1:40 am

A landlord who still locks a tenant on a lease agreement even if his body and health go against the conditions offered in the apartment complex is just heartless.


February 13th, 2013 9:40 am

It’s legal to break a lease because of issues of safe habitability and that is something that can be resolved. Having a medical condition is something that a tenant did not do on purpose. It is something that cannot be helped so this is much more legal than any of the other reasons around.


February 13th, 2013 5:40 pm

On the first instance that a landlord tells you no on your requests to accommodate your medical condition, file that complaint right away!


February 14th, 2013 2:00 am

Yes. I agree – file that complaint. If the landlord does not cooperate, then get a lawyer to represent your case pro bono.


February 14th, 2013 10:00 am

You are in a lose-lose situation here. If you stay, you would worsen your medical condition. If you’d leave, you’ll waste a lot of good money that you could otherwise use for medicines and for the security deposit of a new place.


February 14th, 2013 6:00 pm

I would ruin his reputation by filing a complaint and getting a local news reporter to cover this story.


February 15th, 2013 2:20 am

I don’t think your landlord has a conscience. He’s just thinking of money, money, money? if you die, will he pay or even contribute for your funeral?


February 15th, 2013 10:20 am

Make sure that you record your conversation so you can refer back to it later on. And keep a copy of the medical certificate and every other document you might need.


February 15th, 2013 6:20 pm

I’ve had the same issue once. I got into an accident and lost my legs so I cannot take the stairs to the third floor where my unit was in. I was lucky to have a friendly landlord who graciously offered to move me to the first floor. It was really nice of him and because of that, I stayed. I have been living in this apartment for 10 years now since the accident.


February 16th, 2013 2:20 am

As a landlord, I would allow my tenant to break a lease early. But in order to protect my business, I would ask to keep the remainder of this month’s rent so I would have something to keep while waiting for another tenant. The rule of the SD will still remain, if there are repairs needed, I will take them from the SD and return the rest.


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