Lease Termination/Medical Question
February 2, 2012 2:11 PM   Subscribe

If I sign an agreement of early lease termination, am I barred from being able to seek further legal action against the landlord for medical issues my 20-month old daughter might encounter as a result of our living there?

Until last Saturday, my girlfriend, her 20-month old daughter, and I were living in an apartment where there was a intermittent leak which had been occurring since July 2011. Each time, the carpets were dried and cleaned and the problem would seem to go away for 3-4 weeks and then pop back up. Finally last week, the problem developed into a serious leak, and the carpeting was pulled, mold was discovered, and then two rooms in the house flooded. At that point we left immediately and sought termination of lease under Florida Statute 83.63 Casualty Damage.

The Property Management company and myself went back and forth for several days about the legality of this. Ultimately, they have not officially recognized this specific reason for lease termination, but they did offer a termination of lease agreement in which we can leave our stuff there until the 12th free of charge, and they will process our Security Deposit at that point. The issue is, there was mold found, and our 20-month old daughter has had several ear and sinus infections recently. This could be normal, or it could be something more serious, I just don't know yet. Due to this, I find this section troubling:

Except as otherwise stated in this document, TENANT and OWNER HEREBY remises, releases, acquits,satisfies and forever discharge, each other, management, its owners, employees, agents and assigns, for and from all manner of action and actions, cause and causes of action, suits, debts, dues, sums of money, accounts,
reckonings, bonds, bills, specialties, covenants, contracts, controversies, agreements, promises, variances,trespasses, damages, judgments, executions, claims and demands whatsoever, in law or in equity, which any Party ever had, now have, or which any personal representative, successor, heir or assign of said Party hereafter can, shall or may have, upon or by reason of any matter, cause or thing whatsoever, from the beginning of the world to the day of these presents if the terms of this Agreement are met. OWNER and TENANT agree to hold MANAGEMENT and its employees, agents and representatives harmless from any claims, damages or expenses of any nature in any way relating to the tenancy or this Agreement, The PARTIES hereby release, acquit, and forever discharge each other and their past, present, and future shareholders, directors, officers, employees, principals, agents, servants, property managers, realtors, independent contractors, representatives, parent corporations, subsidiaries, affiliates, predecessors, successors, assigns, attorneys, and insurers from any and all actions, causes of action, claims, counterclaims, demands, damages, fines, penalties, assessments, costs, loss of services, expenses, interest, attorneys' fees and compensation whatsoever, in any way relating to or arising out of the tenancy, the Lease or this Agreement as long as this Agreement is complied with.

If, in the unlikely event our daughter develops asthma or some other worsening of health that they are able to trace back to a mold/mildew exposure, am I barring myself from seeking further action if I sign this document? Or is there some superseding federal or state (Florida) statute which would allow us to seek this in any case. I would consult a lawyer, but this sudden and unplanned move has already tapped my resources. Mind you, I'm not litigious, and at this point I could care less about my stuff, recouping moving costs, cost of new apt., or even my own health. It is specifically my daughter that I am worried about. Any input, "IANAL" or otherwise is sorely needed and appreciated. I have until tomorrow evening to sign this document, so I'm kind of in a bind.....
posted by Debaser626 to Law & Government (6 answers total)
The only real answer here is for you to consult a lawyer, your claims about resources being tapped out notwithstanding.

No one here can reliably give you an answer other than "consult a lawyer."

Perhaps there is a Legal Aid clinic in your town.
posted by dfriedman at 2:14 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

You absolutely absolutely need to contact a lawyer. In your situation, there is no chance I would sign this without talking to one (note that IAseriouslyNAL) -- The HUD website has some links, and many lawyers will do at least a free consultation with you so you know what you're up against or what you're looking at in terms of cost.
posted by brainmouse at 2:19 PM on February 2, 2012

Best answer: Of course, you need to contact a lawyer, but there is one loophole that I can see as someone who has been a tenant advocate before (but not a lawyer, not a lawyer, not a lawyer): Whose name is on the lease as the leaseholder? You, your girlfriend, or both? If it's just you, it's likely that your girlfriend could in the future sue them.

Other than that, OMG, you need a lawyer.
posted by juniperesque at 2:41 PM on February 2, 2012

Response by poster: I would totally consult a legal aid clinic, but the time frame is until 5 PM today. Sigh... Still juniperesque's answer makes the most sense to me given these unfortunate circumstances.

It is my girlfriend that is the only one on the lease. I also think her daughter could be possibly exempt from any contractual stipulations to lease termination because she is under 18, and failing that, should it become necessary, I am not on the lease, but I did go through a background check to receive a HOA parking permit, so I can prove I was there during this time in case I have to.

juniperesque's answer may have some unforeseen pitfalls,and I fully understand the IANAL qualification, but it does offer some comfort and a glimmer of hope in the highly unlikely event it becomes necessary. Me and the girlfriend had pretty much agreed late last night that we would sign this, just because we're so so so exhausted of this fight, the move, the flood, and other simultaneously occurring life issues, and we simply just no longer have the time, the energy, or the resources to fight this fight; and it may be making a a mountain out of a molehill. I will put this in God's hands as to whether or not our daughter has suffered any hidden ill effects.

I wish I could seek legal representation, but since that's not an option I'm willing to look at right now, for better or worse, at least I have some small hope as a back up. So thanks juniperesque!!!
posted by Debaser626 at 5:57 AM on February 3, 2012

Anyone who tells you "you only have until X time to sign this legal document" is almost certainly pressuring you to do something detrimental to you. You have established a legal right to get out of the lease, and your answer to the management company should be "I will not sign any binding agreement until I have had proper legal counsel". Period, full stop. They cannot at this point say "if you don't sign, you can't get out". If they do, tell them that you will be sharing their attempt to intimidate you with your lawyer.
posted by kjs3 at 8:20 AM on February 3, 2012

Yeah, this is late, but it is super shady of them to push you to sign something less than a week after you even brought this to their attention. I hope you told them you were going to review it with your attorney.

I also hope, incidentally, that you don't sign it because it sounds on a cursory glance like you already have a legal right to break the lease so you don't need their "permission" in the form of this document, and they might have some potential liability that they are trying to weasel out of. Don't let them. They can sweat it.

(Obligatory: I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer and this is not legal advice.)
posted by gauche at 9:28 AM on February 3, 2012

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