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What you need to know before signing a lease

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Photo: Video by ktnv.com

What you need to know before signing a lease

By Daniel Gutierrez. CREATED Aug 28, 2014

North Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Crime can happen no matter where you live. One valley couple said after becoming victims, they don't feel secure in their own home. The problem is, they're facing a major fee, if they move. They reached out to Contact 13 to learn their rights.

"We had searched all over town. But a lot of them had really bad reviews. So we moved here," said Kelsey Brod.

It was back in March when Kelsey and Aldo Pena moved into their new place: The Broadstone Sonata Apartments on East Craig and Lamb in North Las Vegas. The young couple said the place was clean and looked safe, so they signed a one-year lease.

"They looked welcoming," said Kelsey.

But Kelsey said she noticed security issues almost immediately after moving in. Video she sent Contact 13 shows a broken security gate, right outside her apartment.

"We keep seeing people coming in and out of this gate," said Kelsey.

She said she complained to management, but never saw it get fixed. Then one night while Aldo was working late, Kelsey claims someone tried to break into the apartment. She was watching TV, when she heard a noise.

"So I look at the door and it's like fidgeting and moving. So I'm like oh my God. I ran to the door and was holding the lock and just looking through the peephole," said Kelsey.

She said the person on the other side of the door had a key to the apartment. So she held the deadbolt in the locked position, until the person left.

"She called me and I was at work and I'm just like, get out of there," said Aldo.

"That night I went and bought locks at Walmart, came back and had security change the locks for me," said Kelsey.

But that wasn't the end of their security concerns. The next incident happened a couple weeks later, as Aldo was leaving for work.

"He went outside and heard his car starting and saw it take off and screams at me, call 911, someone took my car," said Kelsey.

Aldo received a notice from Las Vegas police when his car was recovered the next morning. Thieves left it sitting in a parking lot, but took the stereo and other belongings inside the car. That's when Kelsey and Aldo decided they wanted to move.

"I want us to get a new apartment, go somewhere else, nicer area. Somewhere where she feels safe," said Aldo.

There's just one problem, Kelsey said the apartment manager wasn't willing to let them out of their lease. The agreement they signed actually said if they wanted out, they'd have to hand over, "An early termination fee equal to one month's full rent."

"I don't want to pay any of the fees," said Kelsey.

She and Aldo didn't think it was fair, so they reached out to Contact 13. But Jim Berchtold with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada said they don't have much of a choice. 

"There are very few reasons why a tenant can break a lease. And if the tenant is the victim of crime, that's not one of the reasons," said Jim.

He said even small claims court can't terminate a lease, "The only thing Nevada law requires specifically of a landlord, is that they have to provide you a functioning lock. That's it."

When Contact 13 reached out to the Broadstone Sonata Apartments, management didn't want to go on camera, but issued this statement, "Though it's not our standard policy to release lease holders, we do take security very seriously and are working with the resident to terminate the lease agreement due to this unique circumstance."

A couple days later, Kelsey said she and Aldo were actually let out of their lease, with no fee.

"You helped us a lot. Helped us get everything done. We wouldn't have done that without you," said Kelsey.

Here's the Contact 13 bottom line: Before you sign a lease, do your homework. That includes looking into security and checking out the property in the day and at night. Make sure security gates work, as well as lighting around the property.

Police also provide information on reported crimes in each zip code. If there's a problem after moving in, make sure you document everything. Don't just call, but make sure to file your complaint with management in writing.