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.

Withholding Rent

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.