Tenants are typically required by their rental agreements to pay rent at a certain time each month. However, some states do allow tenants to withhold rent under certain circumstances. This is usually when a landlord fails to meet certain legal requirements for keeping a rental home in good condition. Find out what to do if your tenant starts withholding rent.
The Legal Responsibilities Landlords Have
Under some state laws, landlords are responsible for keeping a rental home in good condition. They must ensure the home meets all health, environmental, and housing/building codes. This usually includes:
- Windows and doors, including screens
- Foundation and floors
- Porches and steps
- Outside walls
Additionally, some state laws requires landlords of all types of buildings — with the exception of duplexes and single family homes — to ensure the structure is free from rodent and insect activity, including termites, ants, and cockroaches. Landlords also must provide heat, water, and garbage removal.
US landlords are not always required to provide air conditioning.
Failure to adhere to these laws allows a tenant to legally withhold rent until the landlord remedies the issue(s) that are in violation.
What Tenants Must Do to Withhold Rent
A tenant cannot simply stop paying rent and later claim it was due to a law-violating condition within the home. By law, tenants must notify a landlord of their intention to withhold rent in writing seven days prior to the day it’s due. Additionally, the written notice must be sent to the landlord via certified mail, arriving seven days prior. Or, it can be hand-delivered to the landlord in the presence of a witness.
If your tenant has stopped paying rent and did not provide you with written notice prior to doing so, you may be able to take action against them for the nonpayment of rent, which may include eviction.
What to Do If You’ve Received a Written Notice of Intention to Withhold Rent
If your tenant provides you with a written notice of intention to withhold rent due to a problem in the home covered under some state laws, the simplest thing to do is fix the problem within the seven-day window. Once fixed within that time frame, the tenant must pay rent as usual on the day it is due. If you are unable to do this, you can fix the issue and the rent will be due at the normal time the following month.