Some states allow tenants to withhold rent until major fixes are made. 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.
About 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made. These states may offer restrictions about the types of issues that tenants can withhold rent for, the amount they can withhold, details about the timing and content of the notice the tenant sends the landlord, and sometimes requires the rent be placed in an escrow account. If a tenant fails to meet these requirements, the tenant may be successfully evicted. Therefore, tenants should consult with a local lawyer before engaging in rent withholding, or at least fully read the process and requirements. This is usually not available when the tenant caused the problem.
Many states that do allow rent withholding prohibit tenants from simply not paying rent. They must deposit in an escrow account, or a neutral third party who holds the money until the fixes are made. Some states, like Maryland, require that a court acts as the escrow. There are often pages on the state website that describe the procedure. Other states allow tenants to place the rent in a private escrow, like a bank. In those states, tenants can visit their own bank to start an escrow account. The banker can walk a tenant through the process. Usually, there is a fee involved.
Deduct Costs from Rent
It’s important not to confuse deducting repair costs from rent with rent withholding. The rules about withholding rent and deducting the cost from the rent are very different – some states allow one and not the other. While about 80% of states allow tenants to withhold rent until essential repairs are made, only two-thirds of states allow tenants to deduct the cost of essential repairs from their rent. Similar to withholding rent, the rules vary heavily by state and failure to follow procedure can result in eviction.
Eviction for Withholding Rent
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.