Can you withhold or reduce rent?

Can you withhold or reduce rent?

Can you as a tenant withhold rent to pay for the repairs?

Simply speaking, tenants do not have the right to withhold rent even if the landlord does not carry out repairs. If you withhold rent your Landlord can choose to evict you and this will affect your right to remain in the property.

In some circumstances, a tenant can pay for repairs and deduct the cost from future rent. Using rent in this way may be quicker than court action and avoids legal costs for both the tenant and the landlord. You should put this in clear writing if you choose to do so as you don’t want your Landlord to think that you are not paying rent. 

To be clear you should not withhold rent and advise your Landlord to do the repairs. Withholding rent until repairs are done by your Landlord could result in your eviction. 

This option is not viable for many renters as it means paying out of pocket which many of us cannot afford.

Procedure to withhold rent and pay for repairs

If a landlord has clearly breached a repairing obligation, tenants have the right under common law to do the repair themselves and deduct the costs and expenses of doing so from future rent payments. 

Correct procedure must be followed and adequate notice and estimates of costs must be submitted to the landlord in advance of the work being done so that s/he has the opportunity to do the works her/himself. Keep all evidence such as receipt and letters from contractors for your records and provide your Landlord with a copy.

If the correct procedure is followed, the tenant will have a complete defence to any possession action taken for rent arrears resulting from the deduction of repair costs from rent. The steps to follow are:

  1. Inform the landlord of the repairs needed (preferably in writing) 
  2. if the landlord fails to act, inform the landlord (preferably in writing) that you will do the repair yourself
  3. the tenant should then allow a reasonable period for the landlord to do the work
  4. obtain three estimates and send them to the landlord. Ask your Landlord for their agreement and if not, why not. You should allow a reasonable time and a final chance to carry out the work 
  5. if possible the contractor who supplied the lowest estimate should be employed to carry out the work
  6. Once the work is carried out, you may pau and ask the landlord for reimbursement
  7. if the landlord does not pay, then the tenant may deduct the cost of the repair work from future rent.

This procedure has its advantages and disadvantages. It is quicker than legal action, although you would be surprised how much quicker Landlords act once Solicitors get involved. 

  • You should give thought to the following before you decide:
  • The disadvantage here is that it will require a lot of work from you to organise this and adhere to the procedure. 
  • Not everyone can afford to do this as repairs can be very costly, so many tenants use this procedure to fix minor disrepairs.
  • As you have to give your Landlord reasonable time to respond/do the repairs at each stage it can take quite a lot of time before you see any result.
  • You will not be able to offset cost of any compensation you think you may be entitled to such as your time, stress, injury to health or damaged items.
  • If the contractor does not do his job correctly you may be liable for further repair
  • You cannot use this procedure if you receive housing benefit.

Please note, if the tenancy agreement states that tenant cannot use rent to pay for repairs, this is likely to be an unfair term, which will not be binding on the tenant.