What's Bugging You?: Breaking Apartment Leases

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When Tony Dillabough moved into Waverly Park Apartments with his roommate, he thought he had found the perfect place for him. He's a student at LCC, and the apartment was close to school and inexpensive. But on January 30th, his experience started to go downhill fast. He got in the shower before class, and when he got out, his 46 inch television was gone.

"I know this stuff might not be super expensive in today's market, but to me... I spent all my hard earned money, and now I don't have the money to replace it," said Dillabough.

And things only got worse... a week later, Tony received a call informing him that the door to his balcony had been shattered, and his 73 inch TV was missing.

"I came back... the door was locked when I got here, so obviously someone shattered my window. There was glass all over the place... all over the porch all over the floor... all over my bedroom."

Tony felt unsafe and left the apartment shortly after the break-ins. But a clause in Tony's lease says that if he chooses to vacate the apartment he must pay the current month, one month's notice, and an additional month of rent. He says he refuses to pay for the time he isn't living there because he feels he had no choice but to leave.

"It's pretty bad when you don't feel safe in your own house to have your own stuff. To me, that's just disgusting. What kind of life is that?" said Dillabough.

The apartment management refuses to let Tony off the hook, even though he left because he felt unsafe. The case may go to court, but what could Tony have done before the incident to protect himself from losing money?

"Renters insurance is vital for people who are renting apartments and houses," said Charles Drayton, an Associate Attorney at Fraser-Trebilcock Law Firm.

Tony didn't have renter's insurance, or he would most likely be receiving the cash value of his losses. But even though he didn't have renters insurance, Tony may have the law on his side.

"According to Michigan law, the landlord must keep the premises in habitable condition. Arguably, if you're living in an apartment that continues to be broken into... it may make the unit unfit to live in," explained Drayton.

Tony is hoping to work things out with his former landlord, but for now he will settle into a new apartment, with renter's insurance this time.

The property manager of Waverly Park Apartments had no comment, except to say that he knew this tenant was upset, and they have already discussed the matter. If you're about to move, before you sign the contract, local attorneys recommend that you talk to other tenants who have lived in the apartment building to hear about their experiences. Of course, renter's insurance would have helped Tony replace his lost items.