Repairs and Rent

I need to do some repairs on the house I rent out (it's currently occupied). I'm on a time limit on when these need to be done by, but the tenant's claiming he doesn't have to pay full rent while the repairs are going on. Anyone know if this is true?

First off, I'm sorry you've go...

First off, I'm sorry you've got a tenant that is taking that stance with you. That's a bit of a bummer. I had a cousin who, as a tenant, had a similar situation. They had dogs and the fence had become so unstable that the dogs could walk past it. They tried and tried to get the landlord to do something, but months went by. He went and talked to some type of counsel who ran him through his options. What I call the Nuclear Option was to declare that the house was uninhabitable and consider it a forced eviction. My cousin would notify the tenant in writing that they were moving out, basically evicting themselves, and they were due any pre-paid rent. That was pretty drastic in their case, since it was just the fence. Also, they did like the house, and they liked the neighborhood. They decided not to do this. The next option was to provide notice in writing that repairs were needed. Since these weren't emergency repairs (like the air conditioning durng a Texas summer), the written notice would start a 30-day clock. Unfortunately for my cousin, every discussion about the fence had been on the phone or in person, so there was nothing in writing that started the clock sooner. The counsel provided my cousin some boilerplate text to hand to the landlord. If I remember correctly it basically said that the landlord had 30 days to repair or the landlord needed to respond in writing that my cousin could have the repairs done, deducting the cost from the next month's rent and providing a receipt for the work. If the repairs weren't made by the landlord in 30 days, then my cousin would get three bids, hire the lowest, get the work done and deduct it from the rent and provide a receipt for the work. The counsel told my cousin that this approach would be really easy to defend if the landlord decided to take him to court for non-payment of rent. Interestingly, the counsel sort of waffled on the whole "quit paying rent" thing. He didn't recommend it, and that's pretty much the most my cousin got out of him. I know that doesn't really answer the question from the landlord's perspective, but I imagine that the 30-day notice is pretty standard and that they can't withhold rent within those 30 days, assuming it's not an emergency repair. I think it's just kind of lame that the tenant went there instead of working with you. Good luck!


repair fee might be at your own cost.

Always pay rent

So one of my questions would be how much would it be to fix the fence to a useable, not beautiful, condition? My lease has $50 opt out clause for the landlord. So if we are talking about a few 2x4s to make it work, then it's on the tenant. If not......

Under Maryland law, if a landlord fails to repair serious or dangerous defects in a rental unit, you have the right to pay your rent into an escrow account established at the local district court. But the law is very specific about the conditions under which rent may be placed in escrow. You must give the landlord proper notice and adequate time to make the repairs before you have the right to place rent in escrow. The escrow account can only be set up by the court.

The serious or dangerous conditions include, but are not limited to:

- Lack of heat, light, electricity or water, unless you are responsible for the utilities and the utilities were shut off because you didn't pay the bill.
- Lack of adequate sewage disposal; rodent infestation in two or more units.
- Lead paint hazards that the landlord has failed to reduce.
- The existence of any structural defect that presents a serious threat to your physical safety.
- The existence of any condition that presents a serious fire or health hazard.

Rent escrow is not provided for defects that just make the apartment or home less attractive or comfortable, such as small cracks in the floors, walls or ceiling.

In order to withhold rent for conditions that constitute a threat to life, health or safety you must notify the landlord by providing actual notice or by certified mail, or the landlord must receive notice of the violations from an appropriate government agency such as the local housing department.

The landlord then has a reasonable amount of time after receipt of the notice in which to correct the conditions. If the landlord fails to do this, you may go to court to file a rent escrow action asking to pay the rent to the court.

Before an escrow account can be established, the court will hold a hearing to listen to both sides of the story. If the facts call for a rent escrow account to be set up, the judge can take several actions, including returning all or part of the money to you as compensation, returning all or part of the money to you or the landlord in order to make repairs, or appointing a special administrator to ensure that the repairs are made. Once the escrow account is established, you must continue to regularly pay rent into this account.

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