Do I have the right to withhold rent due to the fact that I have been living with no power for the last 3 weeks?

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Do I have the right to withhold rent due to the fact that I have been living with no power for the last 3 weeks?

My power was turned off due to non-payment. I brought it up to date but the power company said there had been damage done to the power box and could not be restored until it is repaired by a licensed electrician. I informed my landlord of this as soon as I was told this. I was not responsible for the damaged caused and do not know how it was caused. It has been three weeks and I still have no power as it has not been fixed yet and finally he is having the insurance company coming out to inspect the damage. Today he told me the rent is due. I have always paid on time, in full in the past. My rent is due on the 15th of the month. Do I have the right to withhold the rent for the amount of time I have been forced to live with no power? I also have 2 minor children living with me.

Asked on May 21, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Connecticut

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Speak with a landlord tenant attorney about the best course of action. You have rights, and may be entitled to either pay for repairs, then deduct the money from your rent; or to a rent abatement, or reduction (including a retroactive one) for the time that you have been living without electricity. However, it  is most likely the case that the correct way to handle this situation is NOT to simply withhold rent. That is because if you withhold rent, you will provide the landlord with grounds to evict you; while you could raise the lack of electricity, which would be a breach of the "implied warranty of habitability," as defense to eviction, that puts you in the position of being evicted unless you can prove or establish your defense--and also potentially being evicted if you simply miss your court date for some reason.

Rather than proceeding that way, which puts you on the "defensive," so to speak, you want to provide written notice to the landlord of the problem, that the aparrtment is uninhabitable, and that you require both that the situation be remediated and that you are provided rent abatement for the period that you have not had power. If the landlord does not respond favorably, you then either bring a legal action and/or bring in an electrician to repair the problem and take the cost out of your rent. A lawyer can guide you in how best to do this so as to protect your rights and avoid incurring any liability to the landlord, since a failure to provide proper notice to the landlord before acting can make you liable. Good luck.


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