I am renting a 1700sqft SFH in Naples, FL. Two year lease -- I've been here for 6 months now. I've recently begun to notice the tell-tale signs of sinkhole activity in/outside the home. Don't know why I didn't put it all together before. When I moved in, I suppose I thought the owner had just done a crummy job patching/painting/fixing up the place. Recently the tile in the bathroom started heaving up so I went to google and started reading up. All the signs are there: Cracking where the ceiling meets the walls, floors that are un-level, separation cracks at corners, doors and windows that no longer open/close properly, cracks along the window sills. Since then, I've gone around the house and counted at least 150 different signs of sinkhole damage. Thing is: about 100 of them were recently painted, spackled, and/or covered up in some manner. I feel like a complete idiot because it's totally obvious the owner attempted to cover up this damage prior to putting the home up for rent. Perhaps it's more obvious now than when I moved in because the house is slowly pulling itself apart and all his recent painting/caulking etc is coming undone. I feel 100% certain that I could prove in court that the owner knew he was renting us a sinkhole home.
I haven't said anything to the owner yet. The home still seems very habitable to me and I know that most sinkholes are not catastrophic. However, the damage is slowly increasing and I feel uncertain about whether I am putting my childrens' lives at risk here. In the face of this uncertainty, I feel I have no choice but to be cautious and do the right thing for my family by moving out.
How should I go about 'breaking' the last 18 months of the lease without this turning into a massive legal battle? Should I hire a lawyer to write him, asking for my money back and an end to the lease? Or should I try and work this out directly with him? I really doubt he's going to admit to me or anyone that he has a sinkhole under his home despite all the evidence. It would mean financial disaster for him, plus why would he admit that he knowingly let us move in here without disclosing the situation? But, he went to a lot of trouble to hide the damage. But it's all coming apart at the seams again, and as I said before, I can prove without a doubt that he knew the sinkhole was here before we signed a lease. He has $1800 in 'last month's rent' and a $2000 deposit. Legally, I believe he was obligated to disclose the sinkhole situation. Does anyone have any advice on my bizarre situation?