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.

Rent Withholding

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.