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Landlord & Tenant Law

Can a residential tenant lawfully withhold rent?

Under certain circumstances, a tenant can withhold rent. The following conditions must be met:

  • Defective conditions exist in the rental unit;
  • These conditions "endanger or materially impair" the health, safety, or well-being of someone living in the rental unit;
  • The landlord knows about the defective conditions;
  • The conditions were caused by someone or something other than the tenant or someone under the tenant’s control; and
  • The landlord can make repairs without the tenant having to permanently move out.

An additional step for tenants to protect themselves while withholding rent is to take the withheld rental funds and set them aside in a separate bank account. Although the law does not require a tenant to put the withheld rent in a bank account, it does confer some advantages. Most importantly, if the landlord tries to evict, the tenant can demonstrate to the court that the tenant had the funds to pay rent and did not simply stop paying due to inability to pay.

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