Do I have the right to withhold rent this month if the landlord has not repaired the 3 broken windows like he said he was going to for the last 3 months?

Asked on September 4, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

In every lease there exits what is known as the "implied warranty of habitability". Basically, this means that every tenant has the right to the right to live in a clean and safe premises. For a breach of the warranty a tenant can

repair and deduct i.e. fix the problem and have the landlord reimburse you
withhold rent i.e. not pay rent until repairs are made or
terminate the lease and hold the landlord liable for reimbursement of any expenses incurred as a result of any move.

That all having been said, it is not clear that the repairs that need to be made are of a serious a nature so that the your rental has been rendered uninhabitable. However, if they are such that an intruder could gain entry to your unit or the cold/rain is enetering, then you may have such a claim. 
At this point, you should consult directly with a local attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant cases or you can contact a tenants' rights organization for help. If you fail to follow the proper procedures for attempting any of the above remedies, you could be held liable.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the breaks are bad enough as to affect habitability e.g. let the rain in prevent the unit from being effectively air conditioned and/or heated make the apartment insecure against crime etc., then this would be a breach of the implied warranty of habitability, or the obligation put by the law on landlords to only rent spaces fit for residence and use. This violation would seem to justify withholding rent, though to be safe, keep the withheld rent available and, if the landlord does take you to court for nonpayment, make sure the judge knows that you have the money to pay if necessary that way, if a judge disagrees as to the severity of the problems and whether or not the habitability of your rental is impaired, you can then pay the withheld rent and avoid eviction. Remember whether a unit is "uninhabitable" is often a subjective question, and a judge could come to a different conclusion about how bad the problem is than you did.
If the breaks are mostly just cosmetic, you cannot withhold the rent only conditions affecting habitability justify withholding rent.

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