Landlord Station understands that a tenant withholding rent from a landlord can be stressful for everyone involved. Rent is usually the binding factor in a residential lease and it is part of what ensures a balanced relationship between landlord and tenant. That is why it is so important for you to understand landlord-tenant laws as they apply in your state and what legal or not when it comes to things like withholding rent for repairs or any other reason.
It is important to know all of your responsibilities as landlord and the lawful limits placed on your tenant when it comes to issues like withholding rent. That is why we have supplied the following summary of these issues as a basic reference. Should you need more information or legal advice regarding the subject, contact an experienced attorney licensed to practice in your state.
There are many legal, and illegal, reasons to withhold rent as a tenant. The illegal reasons are endless – maybe your tenant doesn't like you, or is unhappy with the property - reasons such as these will not hold up in a court of law. There are, however, legitimate circumstances and processes under the law in which a tenant may withhold rent in many states. The most common is withholding rent for repairs, which is legal in states like Alaska, Colorado, and Florida.
It is very important for you as landlord to know whether or not your state allows such action by your tenant. Generally, fully withholding rent, or withholding rent for repairs through repair-and-deduct, may only occur if the landlord has been given proper notice of the issue and failed to correct it. Frequently, in a case of withholding rent, a tenant doesn't withhold the full amount. Instead, they apply their right to repair-and-deduct.
Where permitted, the principle of repair-and-deduct allows the tenant to make his or her own repairs, when the landlord has failed to do so, and deduct that cost from the rent amount. In most states, the landlord must be given adequate notice as defined by the law and the deduction cost may not exceed a certain percentage of the total rent payment. This is where it is a good idea for you, as the landlord, to keep thorough and accurate records of communications, repairs made, rent amounts, and rent dates. If your tenant steps outside of his or her rights or legal bounds, accurate records may help you prove it.
There are some states that permit withholding the full rent amount, with or without the repair-and-deduct option. However, in these states there is usually a very strict process by which the tenant may withhold the rent from you. Your tenant usually doesn't get to just keep the money. Rather, he or she must pay the money to the court, a neutral third party, or place it in some sort of court-ordered account, like an escrow account.
Under these circumstances, the withheld rent is usually paid out to the landlord once the repairs or other unresolved issue is addressed. Remember, in most scenarios involving legal reasons to withhold rent, the court must be involved with the tenant every step of the way. If you are facing a scenario where your tenant is withholding rent, make sure there is legal documentation to back up his or her right to do so.
Though withholding rent for various reasons is legal in many states, it is not legal in all of them. For instance, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, and Indiana have no laws regarding any right to withhold rent, repair-and-deduct or otherwise. In states where rent withholding is not allowed, the tenant must pursue other avenues. These include the tenant obtaining a court order to make the landlord to remedy any alleged necessary repairs, or, in some cases, taking more severe actions like terminating the lease and suing for any losses or damages.
The state-by-state variances of laws concerning withholding rent are what make it paramount to understanding your state's landlord-tenant laws so that you can protect yourself. This summary only offers general information, and is by no means legal advice regarding the subject of withholding rent. If you find yourself in need of legal advice as a landlord in a situation involving the withholding rent for any reason, contact a qualified lawyer in your state immediately.
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