Disagreements over matters ranging from petty issues to major contractual obligations form an inherent part of the landlord-tenant relationship. Both parties want to protect their own best interests. Lease agreements list the terms and conditions for the rental property. While the landlord relies on the rental income to cover the cost of the housing and other expenses, the tenant needs a habitable home. Both the tenant and the landlord need to come true with their end of the agreement for the relationship to work.
More often than not, both parties manage to carry out their obligations, disregarding a certain margin of delay. When one of the two parties does not hold their end of the deal, the situation escalates and may require legal help.
Eviction: When a tenant fails to pay the rents due, the landlord reserves the right and is even supported by the court in the eviction of the tenant.
Rent withholding: Where landlords don't fulfil their duties and ensure reasonable living conditions for their tenants, the tenants can withhold rent until the repairs are made. If the tenant caused the damage, then they cannot withhold the rent.
Know your local laws##
Local laws may allow a tenant to withhold rent payment if the landlord breaches the obligation of a habitable house. Keep in mind that a tenant must only withhold rent under extreme conditions. Such factors may include endangerment to health, safety, or well-being of anyone living in the home. However, it may usually be possible to work with the landlord to prevent such a situation from happening.
If your local law doesn't allow rent withholding, the tenant can repair the issue and deduct the expenses from the rent. While some states completely prohibit tenants from withholding their rental payments within set bounds, others enable them to withhold certain amounts for repair.
For example, tenants in California are entitled to a structurally intact property. California allows tenants to repairs themselves, sue the landlord, and even move out without providing any prior notice. On the other hand, tenants in Texas can repair the house and deduct the amounts incurred from future rents. You should also factor-in the precedent set by the local courts.
Document the evidence##
Collect proofs and document proper records of the prevailing uninhabitable conditions of the rental property, so that they can be produced before the court if the landlord takes legal action against the tenant. Hire property inspection agencies if needed, maintain records, keep photos and videos with timestamp. The tenant should also repeatedly inform the landlord about the poor state of premises and kept these communications on record. You must give notice to your landlord - typically at least 30 days, check your local laws. HomeKasa allows you to easily communicate with your landlord.
How do you withhold rent?##
One of the common myths is that you don't have to pay rent. Well, you still have to pay the rent. Instead of paying the landlord, you pay an escrow company. Don't keep the money with you if you want to have a standing chance in the court - chances are high that your landlord will take you to court for non-payment of rent. The escrow company will pay the landlord once the issue is resolved.
As a tenant, you should aim to land in a safe zone before the court, deposit the rental amounts into escrow or with the local court's clerkship department. This allows you to argue in court that you don't owe any rent and that you acted in good faith. If and when the landlord files to evict you, this proves that you withheld rent only to get a habitable house.
Regardless of which state you live in, the general expectation is that you have a habitable residence. Most local laws favor tenants fundamental right to reasonable housing.
HomeKasa has the best property management software to help manage tenant - landlord relationship. You can document your move-in move-out checklist, pay rent online, and communicate with your landlord among other things. It's free. Get started now.