When Are You Legally Allowed To Withhold The Rent?

Your legal ability to withhold rent greatly depends on the laws in your state. Before withholding rent, be sure to check into local state laws. However, in most states, if the landlord fails to meet their responsibilities while you are renting, you may be legally allowed to withhold the rent until they start.

One of the most common reasons a tenant withholds rent is due to the landlord's failure to upkeep and repair the property as stated within the rental agreement. By every state law, the landlord is legally responsible for ensuring the property remains livable while you are renting. Therefore, failure to make needed repairs gives the renter grounds not to pay their monthly rental installment.

Grounds for Withholding Rent

You'll need to ensure you have solid grounds for withholding rent before doing so. Some of the steps you'll want to follow include:

  • Researching the Law: According to your state, what circumstances justify this action? Are you required to give your landlord a specific amount of notice to fix the problem? Are you obligated to put the unpaid rent into a separate bank account or otherwise hold it for full payment after the issue has been resolved?
  • Notifying Your Landlord: Always provide written notice of the outstanding issue and your intent to withhold rent before taking action. Be sure to give the landlord a reasonable deadline to remedy the situation. It's also prudent to send the written notice via certified mail and ask for a receipt.
  • Collect Evidence: Should your landlord attempt to evict you for not paying the rent, you will need a prepared defense to stop their actions. Keep copies of all correspondence and don't allow any pivotal information to be limited to word of mouth. Document the problems by taking pictures.
  • Make Multiple Requests: Don't withhold rent after requesting a resolution only once. Make multiple requests for the issue to be handled, all in writing, and all with a specified deadline for a response or action.
  • File Legal Paperwork: In some states, you cannot withhold rent without a local court's permission. If this is the case in your state, be sure to file any needed legal paperwork to obtain permission.

Before withholding rent, it is your responsibility to ensure the law is on your side. No matter your situation, consult the laws applicable in your state prior to taking any action. And don't rule out coming to an agreement with your landlord. When given the chance, a landlord will often make comprises to ensure rent is not withheld, and your issues are handled. 

For more information, contact Schulze Howard & Cox or a similar firm.