If the landlord has not lived up to his side of the agreement in a material way–meaning the breach must be significant–that may be a basis to terminate the lease and get back a deposit. However, these situations can be very complicated. Especially in the context of residential leases, the law creates certain duties between landlords and tenants and in some cases certain steps that must be followed before terminating a lease. Those other remedies need to be tried prior to breaking a lease.
Also, even if a landlord breaches a lease and you are able to terminate it that does not necessarily mean you get your deposit back. Depending on what the deposit was for, the landlord may still be entitled to retain all or a portion of the deposit.
Douglas N. Kiger, Attorney at Law
Blado Kiger Bolan, Tacoma, Wash.