What should I do if I’m being evicted because I withheld rent due to a lack of repairs?

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What should I do if I’m being evicted because I withheld rent due to a lack of repairs?

I have been staying in my apartment for 11 months. I have had roaches and spiders, there’s mice in the walls, and birds and squirrels in the attic. My sink has been leaking every since I moved in. My gas bills have been so high because of the lack of insulation. Then last month my hot water tank broke for the 3rd time and they did not come fix it because I said I was not paying my rent until they came to do something. So after 3 weeks went by I paid someone to buy another one and come fix. Now this month they still have not attempted to do any so I did not pay them. Now she is taking me to court.

Asked on August 12, 2011 New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You need to get a lawyer to help you, and you need to be prepared to pay the rent--either to the landlord, or possible to deposit it with the court. The short answer: yes, tenants can *sometimes* withhold rent in order to pay for needed repairs, but that's the only reason they can withhold and it has to be done properly (e.g. after written notice to the landlord to make repairs, and a chance to make them following the written notice) or else the tenant has breached the lease by nonpayment. If you have the money to pay, you can avoid eviction; you can then also possibly sue the landlord for  compensation, such as a rent rebate, both retroactive and going forward, for the time the premises has significant problems. Your attorney can guide you in how to avoid eviction, get the repairs done, and possibly get compensation, too. Good luck.


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