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Grounds for lease termination based on lack of Certificate of Occupancy?

I am trying to break my lease, and wondering if the following is a reason to do so.
I rent a unit and recently learned that long before I moved in, my landlord had split the unit into 2 apartments. Both have separate entrances, kitchens, etc. But she did not obtain a city permit to do this work, and does not have a Certificate of Occupancy for both units.
She instructed me to tell the other residents in the building that I am her "roommate" even though she does not live in the apartment at all, because they frown upon her renting (which is probably why she didn't obtain the permits).

I do not think my "half" of her unit has any specific violations because it has an accessible fire exit and repairs are all done, etc.

Given she has violated state code in creating the 2 units, can I simply leave and stop paying rent, and notify her that the lease is voided? Am I entitled to further reimbursement of prior rent? Or should I continue paying rent and living there and pursue this in court? I'm worried if I do the latter, she'll simply start the process of filing for the correct permits, and say I can't leave.

Thanks for your help.

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Most cities and towns in MA require landlords to obtain a certificate of occupancy or compliance before renting a unit to a tenant.  If they fail to do so, they can be fined. And, the failure to obtain the certificate of occupancy will constitute a violation of both the local health ordinance and the state Sanitary Code. However, I do not believe the lack of a certificate of occupancy is grounds for terminating the contractual arrangement between the tenant and the landlord.  See Spaulding v. Young, 32 Mass. App. Ct. 624 (1992) (Violations of regulatory standards such as those set forth in the State Building Code and State Sanitary Code do not compel a finding of a material breach of the warranty of habitability.)


However, if the tenant complains about a lack of compliance or about health and sanitation code violations to the city or town, and the landlord does not or cannot make repairs to the apartment, then the tenant may be able to walk away from the contract.  For example, if the inspectional authority tells the landlord he must install a fire escape, but the landlord cannot afford it, then the tenancy cannot continue.   Also, if a certificate of occupancy was required by law and the landlord failed to obtain one, then the landlord may be prohibited by a court from collecting rent (if the tenant withholds rent because of conditions that violate the state Sanitary Code). Good luck.

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