Repair And Deduct: Knowing Your Rights As A Tenant

Posted on: 3 December 2015

Repair and deduct is a method tenants will utilize in order to force their landlord to make repairs to their home. This method involves forcing a landlord to either make the repairs or the tenant will hire a professional to make the repairs and deduct the cost of the repairs from the rent. While this can be a very effective method, tenants must be extremely careful with this method as withholding rent could result in being evicted.

When Can a Tenant Use the Repair and Deduct Method?

Legally, a tenant can only use the repair and deduct method if the landlord has a legal obligation to make a repair. This legal obligation must be because the problem is making the home inhabitable or the lease agreement states that the landlord or residential property management firm is responsible. Every single rental property comes with an implied guarantee that it will be habitable. Unfortunately, what is considered habitable does vary slightly upon location. For the most part, the home must be structurally sound, sanitary, free of pests, and have working water, heat, and electricity.

If the repair does not make the property inhabitable and the lease does not state the landlord is responsible, using the repair and deduct method is more likely to get you evicted than it is to get your landlord to make the repairs.

How to Use Repair and Deduct Method

After you have determined that you are legally in the clear to use the repair and deduct method, inform the landlord that repairs are needed. The best way to do this is in writing. You do not want to threaten to withhold rent the first time you make this request.

If the landlord does not agree to make the necessary repairs in a timely manner, then you can start the repair and deduct process. This is when you will send a letter to the landlord letting him or her know what needs fixed in the home, who you are going to hire to fix it, and how much it is going to cost. Let the landlord know you will be taking the cost out of the rent and give the landlord a deadline to tell you if he or she is going to handle the repairs before you proceed with having them fixed on your own.

As you can see, the repair and deduct method is very simple as long as you are sure you are legally in the clear to use it and you give your landlord plenty of time to make the repairs before proceeding. Just make sure you keep dated documentation of all correspondence in case your landlord tries to evict or sue you for not paying the rent after using this method to get the repair work done on your own.