Can I Legally Withhold Or Stop Paying Rent To My Landlord?

Whatever you do, DO NOT STOP PAYING YOUR RENT.

Don’t withhold it, don’t pause it, don’t threaten to stop paying your rent - KEEP PAYING YOUR RENT.

An agreement is a two-way contract between a supplier and a customer.
When renting the ‘supplier’ tends to be a letting agent or landlord, the ‘customer’ tends to be the tenant.
At the start of your tenancy you enter in to an agreement with a landlord or letting agent.
They agree to rent out a space to you, you agree to pay for that space.
If the landlord or letting agent fails to keep their side of the contract up, that does not mean that you can stop keeping your side of the contract.
Under normal circumstances, you should always do everything you can to continue paying rent, no matter how bad the situation is.

Picture of an old contract


Why should you always keep paying rent, even if the landlord or letting agent aren’t keeping their side of the agreement?

Withholding rent, not paying rent to your landlord or threatening to stop paying rent could put you at risk of breaking the original contract. Remember the agreement we mentioned earlier, the agreement between the supplier and the customer?
As a responsible tenant, you should never break your side of the agreement.
Don’t withhold your rent as this could lead to you being evicted by the landlords and losing your home.
You have a legal obligation to continue paying your rent.

Your landlord has to (among other things) provide you with:
with quiet and peaceful enjoyment of the property without interference, and,
maintain the property in a habitable condition.

Picture of a peaceful girl

 

So what happens if my landlord isn’t dealing with repairs?
What do I do if my landlord isn’t maintaining the property in a ‘habitable condition’?

This is where the law (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) gets a bit more complicated.

Remember when we said ‘don’t ever withhold your rent’, that’s not 100% correct.
There are certain circumstances when a tenant can pay for repairs that haven’t been completed by the landlord and deduct the cost of those repairs from future rent.
It’s not straightforward though, there’s a process that has to be followed.

It goes something like this:

  • The tenant should tell the landlord, ideally in writing, about the repairs that are needed and allow a ‘reasonable time’ for the repairs to be carried out,
  • If the landlord doesn’t complete the repairs, the tenant should tell the landlord, ideally in writing, that the tenant is going to do the repairs unless the landlords does them,
  • The tenant needs to wait for another ‘reasonable period of time’ for the landlord to carry out the repairs,
  • The tenants then needs to get three estimates for the repair work, send them to the landlord asking the landlord to respond to the estimates ‘within a reasonable time’ and with a final chance to carry out the repairs,
  • The contractor who gave the lowest estimate should then carry out the repairs,
  • The tenant should then send the invoice to the landlord and request to be reimbursed for the cost,
  • If the landlord doesn’t pay, the tenant can then deduct the cost of the repair work from future rent payments.
     

Picture of an old run down house

 

Are there limitations to this process?
Yes, absolutely - it's not an easy process to follow, we really recommend you get legal advice from a housing lawyer before starting this process.
For a deeper dive in to the law and processes surrounding this, have a look at the following sites:
Shelter - Withholding rent
Anthony Gold - A dangerous tactic, withholding rent because of disrepair
HG - When Can I Withhold Rent and Not Get Evicted?
Citizens Advice - Withholding rent because repairs haven't been done

Anyone who’s tried to get one estimate from a Contractor knows how hard that process can be, let alone three!
Complicated? Time consuming? Fair?
What if it’s the depths of winter and your boiler breaks? What’s a ‘reasonable time’? How is a tenant meant to collect, manage and facilitate three estimates from three separate Contractors?
What happens if the tenants can’t locate the landlord?
What happens if the landlord doesn’t reply?

What should you do if you find yourself in this sort of situation? Get in contact with a specialist tenancy lawyer or your local Citizens Advice.
Search for your local Citizens Advice here.

Those are questions we don’t have the answers to, but it’s the law and until that changes it’s vital you, as the tenant, keep your side of the contract and continue paying your rent.

Remember this is the law in just England and Wales, might not apply for the type of tenancy agreement you have, isn’t legal advice and a multitude of other warnings, provisos and caveats.


Further reading: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1985/70/crossheading/repairing-obligations

Want to know where this all came from? Dive in to Lee-Parker v Izzet [1971] for some bedtime reading.

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