What is a valid reason to withhold rent?

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What is a valid reason to withhold rent?

Ever since we moved in we have had the issue of nasty water coming up the drain in our kitchen sink. It happens everytime the guy upstairs does his laundry. They have replaced a piece of the plumbing 3 times, but it never works for more than a few weeks. They need to spend the money and get it fixed properly but they won’t. If it was any other sink I wouldn’t care, but it’s the kitchen sink and it seems to happen a lot when we are washing dishes. Can I hold the rent until they actually do something about it? Or just until they replace the part for a 4th time and go through this next time?

Asked on January 23, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Every lease (written or oral) contains what is known as an implied "warranty of habitability".  It gives a tenant the right to live in a clean and safe premises.  Accordingly, if a landlord refuses to make necessary repairs, a tenant may have the right to:

  1. Repair and Deduct - repair the problem and then charge their landlord for the cost of the repair;
  2. Terminate the Lease - end their tenancy and vacate the premises; and
  3. Withhold Rent - refuse to make any further rental payments until the repair is properly made. 

 However, you first need to consult with a landlord-tenant attorney before pursuing any of these remedies.  If you fail to follow the proper procedures for attempting any of these self-help measures you could be held financially liable.  At this point either hire a lawyer or contact a tenant's rights organization. Depending on your income, you could also ask Legal Aid for assistance or the state/county bar association.  A  local law school clinic might also be of help to you.


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