Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent

QUICK FACTS
  • Withholding Rent as a tenant’s option. Only a handful of states allow tenants to withhold rent and only upon certain conditions (read more).
  • Notice Requirement.  Tenants are required to provide the landlord with notice if they intend to withhold rent. The type of notice required will depend on the state. (read more).
  • Time to Repair.  States allow landlords to fix the habitability issues a certain period of time before the tenant can withhold rent. This period varies depending on the state and starts on the day the notice is received. (read more).
  • How long the tenant is allowed to withhold rent. Tenants are usually allowed to withhold rent until the landlord repairs or addresses the issues. (read more)

Each state has its own rules on what needs to be provided for living conditions in rentals to be deemed “acceptable”, known as the Implied Warranty of Habitability. Similarly, each state provides the corresponding remedies or actions that tenants may take in case the landlord fails to comply with this warranty. Below is a breakdown of those laws as it relates to the tenant’s right to withhold rent.

Withholding Rent

Withholding rent is a distinct remedy from paying for the costs of repairs or of doing what the landlord is required to do and deducting that amount from the rent. Rent withholding is refusing to pay rent until the issue is corrected.

Few states allow tenants to withhold rent. When allowed, tenants usually have to comply with a notice requirement, grace period and/or a specific manner of withholding in order for it to be a “valid” or justified withholding. It is important to know these rules because unauthorized withholding of rent may be a ground for the landlord to terminate the rental agreement, evict the tenant or even for some sort of penalty for the tenant.

States That Allow Rent Withholding for Repairs/Habitability Issues

The following chart lists which states allow tennants to withhold rent for repairs or habitability issues. Any exceptions to the requirements are noted for each state.

Note: the below table only addresses state laws. Always check with county or city housing codes for additional requirements.

StateWhen is Tenant Allowed to Withhold Rent?
AlabamaNot allowed
AlaskaNot allowed
ArizonaNot allowed
ArkansasNot allowed
CaliforniaAllowed
ColoradoAllowed
ConnecticutNot allowed
DelawareAllowed
FloridaAllowed
GeorgiaNot allowed
HawaiiAllowed
IdahoNot allowed
IllinoisNot allowed
IndianaNot allowed
IowaNot allowed
KansasNot allowed
KentuckyNot allowed
LouisianaNot allowed
MaineNot allowed
MarylandNot allowed
MassachusettsAllowed
MichiganAllowed
MinnesotaAllowed
MississippiNot allowed
MissouriNot allowed
MontanaNot allowed
NebraskaNot allowed
NevadaAllowed
New HampshireAllowed
New JerseyAllowed
New MexicoAllowed
New YorkNot allowed
North CarolinaNot allowed
North DakotaNot allowed
OhioNot allowed
OklahomaNot allowed
OregonNot allowed
PennsylvaniaNot allowed
Rhode IslandNot allowed
South CarolinaNot allowed
South DakotaAllowed
TennesseeNot allowed
TexasNot allowed
UtahNot allowed
VermontAllowed
VirginiaNot allowed
WashingtonNot allowed
West VirginiaNot allowed
WisconsinNot allowed
WyomingNot allowed
Washington, D.C.Not Allowed

Notice Requirement and Time to Repair

Where the tenant is empowered by the law to withhold rent, the tenant must provide the landlord with notice and time to conduct the repairs. Below is a table for the time frame landlords have to make the repair, starting the day the request is received, as well as what type of notice is required in that state.

StateType of Notice RequiredHow long the landlord has to fix issues.
CaliforniaOrally or in writing30 days
ColoradoIn writing (only)Within a reasonable time
Delaware In writing (only)48 hours *
Florida In writing (only)20 days, 7 days if “essentials”
HawaiiOrally or in writingif required by government agency *
Massachusetts In writing (only)14 days
MichiganOrally or in writingWithin a reasonable time
Minnesota In writing (only) ***14 days
Nevada In writing (only)14 days
New Hampshire In writing (only)14 days
New Jersey In writing (only)14 days
New Mexico In writing (only)14 days
South DakotaOrally or in writingWithin a reasonable time **
Vermont In writing (only)Within a reasonable time

* In some states there is a limit as to the amount of rent that may be withheld.  Specifically in Delaware, only part of the rent may be withheld, and in Hawaii, the tenant can only hold on to 1 month’s rent.

** In South Dakota, the tenant is only allowed to withhold rent if the repairs will cost more than one month’s rent. 

*** In Minnesota, tenants are only allowed to submit a written repair request to their landlord if there is no local housing/safety/health inspector they can report concerns to.

NOTE

Even if a state does not require it, it’s highly recommended to put all requests in writing in case there is a dispute about the need for the repair or the timing of the request.

Time and Manner of Withholding

Tenants are generally allowed to withhold the rent until the repairs are made or until the landlord has rectified the issues as the latter is required to do so. However, some states require succeeding payment of rent to be made to the court or in an escrow.

That tenants are not automatically allowed to keep the rent to themselves. Some states require tenants to “tender” or make withheld rent payments to the local court.  The court will then decide if the tenant is allowed to keep some, or all, of the rent paid into the court, or if the amount held by the court should be paid to the landlord.

Other states require tenants to pay withheld rent amounts into an escrow account, an account where funds are held for safekeeping until the landlord corrects the issue.  Then, the rent held in the escrow account would be paid to the landlord once the problem has been fixed.

Finally, a few states allow tenants to withhold rent without expecting them to pay the withheld portion to the landlord, even after repairs are made.