How much rent/if any can I legally withhold?

Hello, I have a question regarding rent. Since Nov my bathroom ceiling has been leaking over my toilet, my landlord finally came a ‘fixed it’ around 11/29 but it started back leaking 11/30, then on 12/13 he sent someone to ‘fix it’ and they left a HUGE hole to where you see the pipes and the leak has became like a faucet. I have not paid rent for Dec and he is aware of why and was to get someone out before 2018, still nothing. I have now placed plastic over the hole so my family and I can use the toilet without anything falling on us, but I wanted to know how much/ if anything can I legally withhold from Decembers rent due to this issue.

Asked on January 2, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There are no set guidelines for rent withholding--it is a subjective judgment, based on how much the problem impairs habitability or living there safely. I have seen a lack of heat in the winter in NJ be worth from 25% - 75%, for example, based on the judge who ultimately hears the matter. I have seen a lack of functional stove be worth around 10-15% of rent. I therefore suspect that you are talking about 10% at most for hole which has been covered up, even in an ugly fashion, over the toilet--and possibly nothing, if a court were to conclude that this problem does not actually affect habitability, or the ability to safely live in the unit: the landlord's obligation is to provide a habitable place to live, but it does not have to be aesthetically pleasing. If a judge felt that you could live there with the plastic-covered hole, you would not be entitled to anything.
If you do want to try to force the landlord to make the repair by withholding rent, you may, but be absolutely sure you have the withheld rent available the day of court, assuming that--as is likely--the landlord tries to evict you for unpaid rent. You must have the rent available to deposit with the court if so ordered--deposits are often required pending the judge's decision in the case, when the judge determines how much, if any, you are entitled to. If you fail to make a deposit when ordered, you could be evicted.


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