Do you pay your rent on time every month and somehow find yourself in an almost uninhabitable house? This can happen if you keep finding things that need repairing and your landlord remains unresponsive. But what do you do then? Keep paying rent and pay for all your repairs?
Depending on the state you live in, you could withhold rent from your landlord until the requisite repairs are made. You might worry about being evicted, but we’ll tell you how you can go about it properly and legally!
What Does It Mean To Withhold Rent?
If your apartment or house has reached a point where it’s no longer habitable, you may be able to not pay your landlord until it’s made livable.
However, this doesn’t mean you stop paying rent entirely. On the contrary, you actually continue paying the full rent amount. Except, instead of paying it to your landlord, you pay it to a court, an escrow account, or a neutral third party. The way you do this can vary from state to state but the most common way is to file court papers.
Keep in mind that your reasons to withhold rent must be legitimate. Otherwise, you may face eviction.
What To Know Before Filing For Rent Withholding
In the case that your state allows it, here are three key questions to ask before you begin the process:
- What are legitimate reasons to withhold rent?
- Do you have to give your landlord prior notice?
- Where do you deposit your money?
Once you have answers to these three questions, you can proceed with the next steps.
How To Begin The Process Of Withholding Rent
First, you will have to give your landlord intimation of your plan. To do this, you can send them a rent withholding letter. Make sure you refer to the law or notice in your state that allows you to do this. You can also set a date by which they must respond.
Next, you have to maintain a record of everything to do with your troubles. Whether that’s a copy of your correspondences with your landlord or photos of damages, make sure you have them all at hand. You can also have a professional repair person inspect your home and catalog all the needed repairs. They can give you an estimate of what the expected work should cost. If you do choose a professional, make sure to get a properly dated and signed document with all the relevant findings.
In Minnesota for example, it is legal for you to withhold rent if your landlord does not keep your apartment in a reasonable state of repair. There are some cases in which you might have to pay for repairs but this should be arranged previously in writing. Your landlord may also have a provision where they deduct the cost of repairs from your rent or repay you for them.
For specific information about rent withholding rights in your state, you can visit the website of your state government. Alternately, you can find more information on the Library of Congress’s legal site.
What Can You Do If Your State Doesn’t Allow Withholding Rent?
In the case that withholding rent for repairs is not legal in your state, there are other alternatives you can explore.
Repair and Deduct
One of these is a provision called repair and deduct. As the name indicates, you can carry out the required repairs to make your house habitable and then deduct the cost from your rent. Like in the case of withholding rent, it is important for you to document all evidence starting from the problem leading up to the point you had to carry out the repairs yourself. This will come in handy if your landlord tries to evict you.
Cancel Your Lease Early
According to New York law, there is a provision that allows you to cancel your lease and leave without paying rent. However, this provision is only applicable in the case your apartment becomes uninhabitable because of serious damage not caused by you. Make sure to look up what clauses of the law you can refer to if you decide to go the repair and deduct route.
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