Can I Withhold Rent Due To Disrepair?
Tenants may experience poor housing conditions within their homes for a lengthy period of time. This may include but is not limited to mould and damp, leaking water or gas pipes, pest infestation and structural issues.
A tenant is required to notify their landlord of poor housing conditions as and when they arise. This is because Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 implies an obligation upon landlords to carry out repairs, but only once they have been notified of the issues.
If a landlord fails to respond to their tenant’s complaints regarding the conditions and fails to carry out repairs within a reasonable period of time, a tenant may wish to take legal action to require their landlord to carry out the necessary works.
Withholding rental payments
Some tenants are overwhelmed with frustration by the on-going poor conditions at the property they are occupying and by the fact that, despite notifying their landlords on numerous occasions of the issues, repairs remain outstanding. Due to this, some tenants may decide to withhold rental payment and accrue arrears over time. It is understandable that tenants consider their landlords’ failure to carry out repairs to be unfair and feel that withholding rent may give them leverage to force the landlord to complete works as they continue to struggle to reside in an uninhabitable home. This is especially so where there are young children residing at the property and the poor conditions are beginning to impact the household’s physical and mental health. Whilst we understand the motivation behind this, we strongly advise against this course of action.
Breach of contract
It is fundamental that tenants continue to pay their rent when it falls due despite the poor conditions within the home. This is because it is a tenant’s obligation to make such payments under their tenancy agreement and a failure to pay rent is a breach of the tenancy and may lead to landlords seeking legal action against the tenant for rent arrears. A landlord may therefore start possession proceedings against a tenant and at the same time, the repairs at the property may still remain outstanding or worsen overtime. Should a landlord bring Court action against a tenant, litigation can be costly and could result in tenants losing their homes.
Although a counterclaim for disrepair may be brought in relation to a claim for possession based on rent arrears, this is not a sure way to avoid a possession order as any arrears may be more than the compensation payable.
Consequently, not only does a tenant not have a right to withhold rent due to their landlord’s failure to carry out repairs, it is also not likely to assist them in the long run. To avoid running the risk of a landlord taking possession proceedings against them for arrears, we advise tenants to continue paying their rent. Instead, a tenant may wish to bring a disrepair claim against their landlord, which can include a claim for compensation in the form of a rent rebate.