I live in a city in Los Angeles County in California where there are some wild animals around and my apartment is located just below a low of open land. A few months ago a child was bitten by a cayote that came down into our apartment complex. The department of wild life was present for a few weeks hunting coyotes. Due to this, my wife became very scared since we have a small child and dog. So we are moving. However we renewed for one year, 2 months after the incident. So we have a few more months on our lease (7 months). The lease has an early termination penalty of $4000. Is there anyway I can get out of paying that fee? Is there any case law that may help me?
In California, the landlord is entitled the actual out of pocket expenses incurred due to tenant's breaking of the lease. I do not believe the $4,000 penalty is enforceable. You should talk to management first to see if they would agree to allow you to leave. After all, it would be in their best interest to allow you to leave penalty-free since it is a realistic risk that your child and dog may be in danger, and they may be liable.
If you renewed the lease after you knew about the problem, you probably would not have the right to rescind the lease under Civil Code Section 1689. There may be other grounds which would justify breaking the lease, but none are apparent to me from your post.
I have not reviewed or analyzed it, but agree with the other attorney that the $4k cancellation clause may be invalid. However, in view of your possible exposure for damages for breaking the lease (including under Civil Code Section 1951.2, and possibly Civil Code Section 1951.4), $4k might not be a bad deal (although you could always see if the landlord was willing to waive or reduce it).
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