Action 9 investigates breaking lease on crime-ridden property

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ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —

An Orange County family claims they're trapped in an apartment that's not safe. 

When property managers would not let them break their lease to escape what the family described as a "mini crime wave" they called Action 9's Todd Ulrich for help.

Ulrich took their case to the landlord for results and found out how renters can escape a lease when they feel at risk.

At Bree Benoit’s apartment near Maitland, a window blown out by a gun or a rock has not been replaced after one in a series of attacks that her family living in fear.

“My daughters are terrified to be by themselves. They are afraid to leave the apartment,” said Benoit.

She told Ulrich that they are scared to live at Lake Weston Pointe Apartments.

Police reports Ulrich reviewed show two separate cases where someone broke windows then fled. 

In the past seven months, Benoit's unit was also ransacked by a burglar. And just last month there was a home invasion when Bree's daughter Tierra Benoit and granddaughter were inside.

“I was scared. I had a 2-year-old and my daughter with me and I didn't know what to do,” said Benoit's daughter.

Thieves stole electronics in the home invasion, but no one was hurt.  

Benoit said she begged apartment managers to let her out of her lease but they refused. 

“It would be foolish to stay here because every single day here something else could happen,” said Benoit.

Ulrich took Benoit's case to the on-site property manager who declined to discuss her case. 

Later a corporate spokesman told Ulrich that Benoit is now free to move without penalty because the company did not know about all the attacks. He also said the company’s major concern was for her safety.

Can renters who fear for their safety break a lease? 
 
Legal experts said you can give landlords a seven-day notice to make repairs with a serious problem like security or say you would have to leave.

Michael Resnick of the Legal Aid Society said it must be in writing. 

“'If you don't fix it within seven days I'm going to terminate my lease,' and you could be allowed to do that," said Resnick.

But Resnick and other experts said only try that if you’re planning to move out anyway, because most landlords will still pursue lease damages against your credit report.

Corporate managers from Benoit's apartment complex said they have added night security and are spending $5,000 a month on safety features at Lake Westin Point Apartments.