Some states allow tenants to deduct the cost of repairs from rent if certain procedures are followed. The rules vary from state to state, and tenants can be evicted if the state’s procedures are not followed or if the state prohibits it. For this reason, tenants should be very careful when using this remedy to fix their problems.
Deduct and Repair
About two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the costs of repairs from their rent when certain conditions are met. Usually, the state includes detailed rules about the types of repairs the tenant can make, how much they can deduct for the repairs, how long the tenant must wait before making the repair, and the proper notice the tenant must give to the landlord. If a tenant fails to follow the proper procedures for a deduct and repair, they may be legally treated as not paying a portion of their rent and thus, may be evicted. Tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in a deduct and repair, or at least fully read the law and procedure about the requirements. This remedy is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.
It’s important not to confuse deducting the cost of repairs from withholding rent altogether until repairs are made. They are separate remedies, and some states offer one but not the other. Additionally, many of the states that allow tenants to withhold rent require the tenant place the rent in an escrow account (a bank or court acts as an objective intermediary, and holds the money until the fixes are made). Similar to deducting the cost of repairs from rent, failure to follow the proper procedures may result in eviction.
Eviction for Deducting Repairs
Most state laws protect tenants from eviction in retaliation for their exercise of a legal right. The tenant may be able to defend against eviction by showing that it was in retaliation for using these rights. Some states also allow the tenant to bring a private lawsuit against a landlord for retaliatory eviction.
State and Local Laws
Laws differ heavily by state, county, and city. Use RenterPeace to see more specific laws for to a given apartment and to see comments from people in your area.
Documenting the Problem
For most problems, tenants should document their issues, notify their landlord (document this too!), and stay informed about their rights. Renterpeace is a free website that helps with each step of this process. Tenants use RenterPeace to more easily see applicable laws, track their problems, and much more. There's a reason RenterPeace was selected "Best of" legal apps for both Android and iOS. It also includes household management tools, like a chore manager and bill tracker. Try it - you don't even to login first.
Using Property Management
To stay updated and organized about the problems in their apartments, landlords should use a property management system. Many are expensive or have high setup fees, but using RenterPeace for landlords is free. It's complete with legal compliance tips targeted to their problems, maintenance tracking, tenant screening, money-saving grant information, and tenant chat. It makes managing properties easier and staying updated about status of rental properties a breeze. Try it today.