Contact us whenever you need it!

+1 855 997 0206

Contact hours: Mon-Fri 8am - 10pm ET

LEGAL DICTIONARY

Rent Withholding

What Is Rent Withholding?

Rent withholding is a legal term for when a tenant refuses to pay some or all of their rent to protest a landlord’s illegal behavior, such as providing inhabitable living conditions.

Since state laws vary, a tenant considering this step must follow their local regulations for when this type of response is allowed. Otherwise, their actions may lead to an eviction notice rather than the resolution of their problem.

When Can You Withhold Rent?

In 1979, the New York Court of Appeals case Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell established what is called the implied “warranty of habitability” that exists in landlord-tenant law.

The landmark case upheld a tenant’s 10 percent reduction in rent because the landlord did not maintain the residential premises in habitable condition. Subsequent cases in New York found that a tenant has the legal right to withhold rent to protest unhabitable conditions in their dwelling.

States vary on the particulars of what conditions make rent withholding legal. However, under general circumstances, withheld rent is permitted, of all or part of the rent, if the following conditions are met:

  • Defective conditions exist in the residence
  • These conditions affect or endanger the health, safety, or well-being of any resident of the home.
  • The landlord knows about these conditions.
  • The conditions were not caused by the tenant, a guest, or anyone in the household.
  • The landlord can make repairs without you having to move out permanently.

Many tenants feel that this form of protest gives them a position of strength when negotiating for their landlord to make repairs. The tactic can be especially powerful when a group of tenants joins together to withhold their rent.

Issues that rent withholding allows tenants to negotiate can include:

  • The start and end date for repairs
  • How much rent will be withheld while repairs are being done
  • The amount –if any– of withheld rent you will pay upon completion of repairs

After the repairs are completed, the tenant must resume full rent payments. Some lawyers recommend that tenants in a rent withholding case should set their rent money aside in a separate bank account. That way, if the landlord takes you to court as part of the eviction process, you can prove you were not withholding rent because of an inability to pay.

Also, having the rent money set aside gives you the peace of mind that you have the money to pay the rent if the court rules that you should.

How to Prepare for Rent Withholding

The first step is to inform your landlord in writing of the unhabitable living conditions. Keep copies of all communication regarding the matter.

Also, document the conditions with photographs. Ideally, these photos or videos should have a date and time stamp.

What Are the Rent-Withholding State Laws?

Rent withholding is not a common law right. While most states allow some form of the practice, it is up to the tenant to comply with the rules and statutes of their state.

In states that do not permit rent withholding, there may be other options, such as “repair-and-deduct.” This practice means fixing the problem yourself and deducting the cost of the repair from your rent.

This table shows the state laws regarding rent withholding:

State Statute About Rent Withholding
Alabama Ala. Code § 35-9A-164
Alaska Alaska Stat. §§ 34.03.100, 34.03.180(a)(3), 34.03.190
Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1364 and 33-1365
Arkansas Ark. Code § 18-17-502
California Cal. Civ. Pro. Code § 1174.2; Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. 3d 616 (1974)
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 47a-14a to -14h
Delaware Del. Code Ann. tit. 25, § 5308(b)(3)
District of Columbia D.C. Mun. Regs. § 14-4303; Javins v. First Nat'l Realty Corp., 428 F.2d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 1970)
Florida Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.60
Georgia No statute
Hawaii Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-78
Idaho No statute
Illinois 765 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 735/2, 735/2.2 (applies only when a court has appointed a receiver to collect rents, following landlord's failure to pay for utilities)
Indiana No statute
Iowa Iowa Code Ann. § 562A.24
Kansas Kan. Stat. Ann. § 58-2561
Kentucky Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 383.645
Louisiana No statute
Maine Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 6021
Maryland Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] §§ 8-211, 8-211.1
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 239, § 8A
Michigan Mich. Comp. Laws § 125.530
Minnesota Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 504B.215(3)(d), 504B.385
Mississippi No statute
Missouri Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 441.570, 441.580; Kohner Properties, Inc. v. Johnson, 553 S.W.3d 280 (Mo. Sup. Ct. 2018)
Montana Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-421
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1428
Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 118A.490
New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 540:13-d
New Jersey Berzito v. Gambino, 63 N.J. 460 (1973)
New Mexico N.M. Stat. Ann. § 47-8-27.2
New York N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-b, Semans Family Ltd. Partnership v. Kennedy, 675 N.Y.S.2d 489 (N.Y. City Civ. Ct.,1998)
North Carolina No statute, but tenants can sue in small claims court. See, "Landlords' Maintenance and Repair Duties: Your Rights as a Residential Tenant in North Carolina," a North Carolina Attorney General publication.
North Dakota No statute
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 5321.07 (does not apply to student tenants; or when landlord owns three or fewer rental units, as long as landlord has given written notice to tenant)
Oklahoma Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 41, § 121
Oregon Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.365
Pennsylvania 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.206; 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1700-1
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-32
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. § 27-40-640
South Dakota S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 43-32-9
Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-111-104
Texas No statute
Utah No statute
Vermont Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4458
Virginia Va. Code Ann. §§ 55.1-1244
Washington Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 59.18.110, 59.18.115
West Virginia Teller v. McCoy, 253 S.E.2d 114 (W.Va. 1978)
Wisconsin Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(4)
Wyoming Wyo. Stat. § 1-21-1206

Helpful Resources:

MassLegalHelp - Options If Your Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs

HG.org - When Can I Withhold Rent and Not Get Evicted?

Cornell Law - Rent Withholding

What Is Rent Withholding?

Rent withholding is a legal term for when a tenant refuses to pay some or all of their rent to protest a landlord’s illegal behavior, such as providing inhabitable living conditions.

Since state laws vary, a tenant considering this step must follow their local regulations for when this type of response is allowed. Otherwise, their actions may lead to an eviction notice rather than the resolution of their problem.

When Can You Withhold Rent?

In 1979, the New York Court of Appeals case Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell established what is called the implied “warranty of habitability” that exists in landlord-tenant law.

The landmark case upheld a tenant’s 10 percent reduction in rent because the landlord did not maintain the residential premises in habitable condition. Subsequent cases in New York found that a tenant has the legal right to withhold rent to protest unhabitable conditions in their dwelling.

States vary on the particulars of what conditions make rent withholding legal. However, under general circumstances, withheld rent is permitted, of all or part of the rent, if the following conditions are met:

  • Defective conditions exist in the residence
  • These conditions affect or endanger the health, safety, or well-being of any resident of the home.
  • The landlord knows about these conditions.
  • The conditions were not caused by the tenant, a guest, or anyone in the household.
  • The landlord can make repairs without you having to move out permanently.

Many tenants feel that this form of protest gives them a position of strength when negotiating for their landlord to make repairs. The tactic can be especially powerful when a group of tenants joins together to withhold their rent.

Issues that rent withholding allows tenants to negotiate can include:

  • The start and end date for repairs
  • How much rent will be withheld while repairs are being done
  • The amount –if any– of withheld rent you will pay upon completion of repairs

After the repairs are completed, the tenant must resume full rent payments. Some lawyers recommend that tenants in a rent withholding case should set their rent money aside in a separate bank account. That way, if the landlord takes you to court as part of the eviction process, you can prove you were not withholding rent because of an inability to pay.

Also, having the rent money set aside gives you the peace of mind that you have the money to pay the rent if the court rules that you should.

How to Prepare for Rent Withholding

The first step is to inform your landlord in writing of the unhabitable living conditions. Keep copies of all communication regarding the matter.

Also, document the conditions with photographs. Ideally, these photos or videos should have a date and time stamp.

What Are the Rent-Withholding State Laws?

Rent withholding is not a common law right. While most states allow some form of the practice, it is up to the tenant to comply with the rules and statutes of their state.

In states that do not permit rent withholding, there may be other options, such as “repair-and-deduct.” This practice means fixing the problem yourself and deducting the cost of the repair from your rent.

This table shows the state laws regarding rent withholding:

State Statute About Rent Withholding
Alabama Ala. Code § 35-9A-164
Alaska Alaska Stat. §§ 34.03.100, 34.03.180(a)(3), 34.03.190
Arizona Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 33-1364 and 33-1365
Arkansas Ark. Code § 18-17-502
California Cal. Civ. Pro. Code § 1174.2; Green v. Superior Court, 10 Cal. 3d 616 (1974)
Colorado Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-507
Connecticut Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. §§ 47a-14a to -14h
Delaware Del. Code Ann. tit. 25, § 5308(b)(3)
District of Columbia D.C. Mun. Regs. § 14-4303; Javins v. First Nat'l Realty Corp., 428 F.2d 1071 (D.C. Cir. 1970)
Florida Fla. Stat. Ann. § 83.60
Georgia No statute
Hawaii Haw. Rev. Stat. § 521-78
Idaho No statute
Illinois 765 Ill. Comp. Stat. §§ 735/2, 735/2.2 (applies only when a court has appointed a receiver to collect rents, following landlord's failure to pay for utilities)
Indiana No statute
Iowa Iowa Code Ann. § 562A.24
Kansas Kan. Stat. Ann. § 58-2561
Kentucky Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 383.645
Louisiana No statute
Maine Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 14, § 6021
Maryland Md. Code Ann. [Real Prop.] §§ 8-211, 8-211.1
Massachusetts Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 239, § 8A
Michigan Mich. Comp. Laws § 125.530
Minnesota Minn. Stat. Ann. §§ 504B.215(3)(d), 504B.385
Mississippi No statute
Missouri Mo. Ann. Stat. §§ 441.570, 441.580; Kohner Properties, Inc. v. Johnson, 553 S.W.3d 280 (Mo. Sup. Ct. 2018)
Montana Mont. Code Ann. § 70-24-421
Nebraska Neb. Rev. Stat. § 76-1428
Nevada Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 118A.490
New Hampshire N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 540:13-d
New Jersey Berzito v. Gambino, 63 N.J. 460 (1973)
New Mexico N.M. Stat. Ann. § 47-8-27.2
New York N.Y. Real Prop. Law § 235-b, Semans Family Ltd. Partnership v. Kennedy, 675 N.Y.S.2d 489 (N.Y. City Civ. Ct.,1998)
North Carolina No statute, but tenants can sue in small claims court. See, "Landlords' Maintenance and Repair Duties: Your Rights as a Residential Tenant in North Carolina," a North Carolina Attorney General publication.
North Dakota No statute
Ohio Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 5321.07 (does not apply to student tenants; or when landlord owns three or fewer rental units, as long as landlord has given written notice to tenant)
Oklahoma Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 41, § 121
Oregon Or. Rev. Stat. § 90.365
Pennsylvania 68 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 250.206; 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1700-1
Rhode Island R.I. Gen. Laws § 34-18-32
South Carolina S.C. Code Ann. § 27-40-640
South Dakota S.D. Codified Laws Ann. § 43-32-9
Tennessee Tenn. Code Ann. § 68-111-104
Texas No statute
Utah No statute
Vermont Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 9, § 4458
Virginia Va. Code Ann. §§ 55.1-1244
Washington Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 59.18.110, 59.18.115
West Virginia Teller v. McCoy, 253 S.E.2d 114 (W.Va. 1978)
Wisconsin Wis. Stat. Ann. § 704.07(4)
Wyoming Wyo. Stat. § 1-21-1206

Helpful Resources:

MassLegalHelp - Options If Your Landlord Refuses to Make Repairs

HG.org - When Can I Withhold Rent and Not Get Evicted?

Cornell Law - Rent Withholding