did apt complex violate lease first?

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my sis are in the process of looking for a new home when our current lease is up, but we have a tarnished rental history from a previous apt complex who says we owe it $800(for its last month's rent). i do understand how under normal circumstances we would have violated the lease by not giving 30 days and fulfilling our contractual obligation, BUT there were extenuating circumstances which make me question if i could dismiss the charge.

1. the state is in the process of building a parkway, which legally forced all tenants in three buildings on property to move out by dec 31. my sis and i would've originally had to stay until march if we went by the office lease. we DID leave early dec, but that was because housing was hard to find, being available only before or after the 31st deadline, AND the management team(at a meeting w/ tenants and the state)said they'd be understanding about maybe moving a little earlier because of holidays and such. regardless, when i researched the legalities of everything, i got the impression it is they who broke the lease first by having us move before march.

2. if my impression was incorrect, then perhaps another avenue i uncovered is instead feasible, which said a complex breaks its lease if it does not adequately maintain property. while living there in november, broaching the last required month, maintenance was negligent. granted, we had the necessities like water and electricity, and nothing was hazardous, BUT our water heater was broken and not repaired, leaving a flooded area of at least 6ft, spreading from door to couch(and so deep the dog would lap from it!), possibly being a breeding ground for whoever-knows-what bacteria. YES, we did do a maintenance request in writing, but all they did was dry-vac the water;no new water heater was brought(probably since the bldg was going down anyway), and it was soon back to the old. when i called back to say it wasn't fixed, no one ever came out, and this was a place which proudly puts their 24 hr guarantee on its desks. you could never get a straight answer for your questions, either...ownership switched hands, and the on-site manager was never in the office it seemed, busy splitting time between multiple properties. i did take pictures of the water damage(the carpet, ruined items which were in the water closet, etc) but they didn't look as incriminating as the reality, and so i don't know if they're even worth anything. (i even tried to find a lab which would test for the mold and such on the items in the closet, basically trying to find scientific info to deem it an unliveable environment..lol..)

there is probably more, but it's late and my brain isn't as lucid as i'd like, and i can't retrieve all the details and research because i gave them to my lawyer friend who sent the collectors a letter, but he's from child protective services, and his approach didn't seem to work(or i wouldn't be writing here). please advise either if i should gulp and pay, or if i am in my rights not to pay.
I'm assuming you didn't pay rent for the month of December. To begin, how early did you leave? If it was a few days, you'll have a difficult time recovering for the entire month. You may want to write a letter of dispute stating exactly what you wrote here, that you had been told that management would be understanding and that they unquestionably implied or stated that you would be able to leave early given the situation and the landlord's breach of your lease. Send it certified return receipt. Additionally, you might want to state that if they pursue the $800, you will be forced to take them to court for breaching the lease and forcing you to move 3 months earlier than expected. You may not hear from the landlord again. Let us know how it works out! Best of luck....

Note: The other stuff that you have are relatively minor complaints although you may want to bring it up the landlord's indifference to problems that would have been remedied in other circumstances only in passing. Those items alone will probably not allow you to abate the rent for an entire month.
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