Withholding rent may be appropriate for you only if:
• you cannot afford to pay for the repairs, and
• your problems are so serious that your home is uninhabitable.
But be careful, withholding the rent is often not the most appropriate choice and many courts do not look favorably on it. While you are withholding rent you should be looking for another place to live, because the landlord may then try to evict you for nonpayment of rent.
Examples of what would not be appropriate problems for withholding rent are torn carpeting, leaky faucets, toilets that won’t stop running, cracked walls, or a small or minor amount of insects or rodents. Examples of what may be appropriate are no hot water, no heat in the winter, dangerous conditions in the structure of your home, a seriously malfunctioning sewage system, or a serious infestation of rodents or insects.
The safest way to withhold rent to try to get the landlord to improve conditions is to put the rent money into a separate bank account from your other funds. This way, if your landlord tries to evict you or sue you for the money, you can prove to the court that you were not using the money for another purpose. • The first step in this process would be to write to your landlord to tell them about your problem(s) and ask your landlord to fix it. Do not skip this step— you must tell your landlord in writing, even if you’ve already told them before about the problem.
• Be detailed about the problem— explain how seriously it affects your family’s home, life, health, safety, cleanliness, etc. If you can, also take pictures of the problem.
• Always keep copies of all your letters.
• Give your landlord a reasonable time to do the repairs.
• If no repairs are made, write the landlord again. Tell the landlord that because he has not fixed your problem, your home is uninhabitable and, therefore, you intend to withhold your rent. (There are sample letters on the website).
• Do not spend the rent money. Put the money into a separate account (escrow account). You can ask your local bank how to do this. This way, if your landlord takes you to court and wins a judgment against you for nonpayment of rent, you will have the money to pay it back.