As long as you (or your guests) did not cause the major issue that now needs fixing, you are allowed to withhold rent until your landlord makes repairs. But you have to be very careful to follow the law to the letter. Otherwise, your landlord will almost certainly sue you for non-payment, and you could stand to lose big.
What issues qualify for rent withholding?
Landlords across the state of New York are responsible for fixing anything that violates the implied warranty of habitability. Some peeling paint in a corner of an apartment? Not so much. Conditions that merit rent withholding might include a lack of heat, roach infestations, bedbugs, no hot water, broken plumbing, or dangerous conditions such as broken doors or locks.
How much money should I withhold?
If you decide withholding is your only option, choose an amount that’s in proportion to the inconvenience. According to the Department of Homes and Community Renewal, the reduction should be calculated by estimating the value of the apartment without the essential services, then subtracting that amount from the actual rent.
Where should I store the withheld rent?
Go to your bank and tell them you want to open an escrow account specifically for withholding rent. Store the money you are not paying in this account.
What are the possible outcomes of withholding rent?
The landlord might fix the problem, and ask that you reimburse them the withheld rent. How you respond is up to you and depends on the severity of the issue and how long it took to fix.
The landlord might still not fix the problem, in which case you can either cease paying rent entirely, find a new place to live, or take him to court. Or, the landlord might just sue you for the unpaid rent or try to terminate your lease for non-payment, particularly if he has other reasons for wanting you out. Just be prepared—if you followed the steps outlined above, you should be okay once you get in front of that Housing Court judge. And of course, if litigation is commenced, it might be smart to speak to a landlord/tenant lawyer.
If you don’t think the issue in your apartment is serious enough to warrant withholding rent, then you can definitely fix it yourself and pay less rent. Your other option is to leave without notice, using a legal concept called "constructive eviction."
The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.
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