Can I withhold rent?
Can I withhold rent?
If you’ve ever had a dodgy landlord, you’ll understand the appeal of withholding rent. There are plenty of situations that just aren’t fair when it comes to renting — whether it’s unscheduled visits, a lack of communication, or unreasonable living conditions. It’s understandable to want to punish your landlord for not holding up their end of the tenancy agreement. But before you make any hard and fast decisions, let’s take a quick look through the legal side of things. So, can you withhold rent? And, are there ever grounds for withholding rent in the UK? For the answer to these questions and more, just keep reading.
When can I withhold rent?
You might not like the first thing we have to say… But unfortunately, it’s rarely a good idea to withhold rent from your landlord. In fact, we’d go as far as saying it’s almost never a good idea to stop paying rent, no matter what the reason might be. That includes if your landlord won’t respond to your emails, if they’ve increased the rent without warning, or if they’ve left you without heating during a cold-snap in the winter.
Of course, renters have rights, and there are rules that your landlord must abide by. But if your landlord is behaving unreasonably, then your best first port of call is Citizens Advice who can talk you through the legal side of raising a complaint. Think of it this way, if your landlord has neglected their responsibilities, then it’s currently them that’s in the wrong. But as soon as you start withholding rent or paying rent late, you’re also neglecting your responsibilities as a tenant. As the old saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right, and it’s usually a much safer bet to keep your side of things squeaky clean. After all, refusing to pay your rent and stacking up rent arrears might only serve to get you evicted from your home.
Quick note: To learn more about rent arrears and eviction, check out: ‘How much rent arrears before eviction UK’?
So, if you noticed that we said it’s “almost never” a good idea to withhold rent, you might now be wondering — what’s the exception? Well, it’s not exactly an exception as such, but we’ll talk about withholding rent for repairs next.
Withholding rent for repairs UK
If you’re wondering, can I withhold rent for repairs? The first thing you need to consider is whether the repair work you’re waiting on is having a significant impact on your safety in the home OR whether it could pose a significant risk to your safety in the future. We’re not talking about a broken toaster here, but high-priority repair jobs such as those that fall into the following categories:
- Damage to the structure and exterior of your home, such as a drip through your roof, a broken door, or a hole in the wall.
- Out-of-order sinks, baths, toilets, pipework, and drains.
- Issues with electrical wiring, water tanks and boilers, radiators, heaters, or gas and electric fires.
- Serious damp or mould in the home.
- Poor temperature regulation — such as homes that won’t heat properly in the winter or those without sufficient ventilation for the heat in summer.
- A pest problem such as rats or cockroaches living alongside you.
- A contaminated or unsafe water supply.
- Active asbestos in the home.
The second thing you’ll need to consider is whether you could be found responsible for the damage. Let’s say you clogged the drains or brought home a rug invested with bed bugs. If you caused the damage, then you’re responsible for getting it fixed. For more information on this topic, check out: ‘UK tenants rights on repairs - things you should know while renting’.
But even if it’s your landlord that’s responsible for the repair work — refusing to pay your rent could still get you into trouble. What you could do, however, is use your rent to pay for the repair work yourself. This is less risky than withholding rent altogether, but there’s still a correct procedure you’ll need to follow. More on that next…
Using rent to pay for repairs
If you have the financial means to carry out the repairs yourself, then you might be able to organise the work and deduct the cost from your rent. Here’s the correct process to do this:
- Report the repair work needed to your landlord in writing.
- If there’s no response, write to your landlord again informing them of your intention to do the repairs yourself unless they make arrangements.
- Allow a reasonable amount of time for your landlord to respond and organise the repair work. If this doesn’t happen, get a handful of quotes for the work needed from good-quality, qualified contractors.
- Write to your landlord again with the quotes attached giving them a final chance to step in. You should warn them that in two weeks, you intend to organise the work and deduct the cost from the rent.
- If there’s still no response, arrange for the contractor with the lowest quote to carry out the necessary work. Pay for the service and send a copy of the receipt to your landlord asking for reimbursement.
- If your landlord doesn’t respond or refuses to pay back the money, you may deduct the cost from future rent. Send your landlord a breakdown of the cost and how much rent you intend to pay over the following months to compensate.
Quick note: It’s important that you keep a copy of all written communication between yourself, the contractors, and your landlord. If your landlord raises a legal dispute later on, you’ll need to prove that you did all that you could to reach a reasonable solution.
A few final tips…
Dealing with negligent landlords can be difficult, but the last thing you want is to add more stress for yourself by getting into trouble over missed rent payments. Get in touch with Citizens Advice for legal assistance before you start withholding rent.
For more tips on managing your landlord, check out: ‘How to deal with a landlord who is unreasonable’.
Worried this might affect your future housing applications? Why not read: ‘Can a landlord give a bad reference’.
Urban Jungle is not a financial advisor and information in this article should not be taken as advice or recommendation.