A fundamental part of any tenancy agreement is the tenant’s obligation to pay rent to live in the property. In return, the tenant can enjoy a private and peaceful residency without interference and have the peace of mind that the property is maintained by the landlord and kept in a habitable condition.
In most instances, payment is made on time, in full and without complication by tenants. However, there are occasions where tenants withhold their rent payment. Now you may be wondering if they have a right to do this and in most circumstances, the answer is no. For example, just because you may not have provided a Gas Safety Certificate or carried out a property repair as quickly as the tenant would like, it does not give them an automatic right to withhold rent payment.
So what does give a tenant the right to withhold rent?
Tim Frome, Legal Services Manager for my|deposits explains the exceptional circumstances that give the tenant the right to withhold rent:
The rule of ‘set off’ explained
A landlord must make repairs to the interior and exterior structure and make any installations when required to do so. If the landlord fails to make the repairs within a ‘reasonable’ time after the tenant has reported them, then the landlord could be in breach of their repairing obligations.
As a result of delay or refusal to complete repairs, the tenant can, after following the correct procedure, arrange to carry out the repairs themselves and deduct the cost of these repairs from the rent by applying the rule of ‘set off’.
What costs can be ‘set off’?
It is important to note that only the cost of repairs required under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 can be withheld from the rent. Any other deductions such as compensation for work not being carried out in a timely fashion do not fall under the Act and must be mutually agreed between the parties (preferably in writing).
What steps do the tenants have to take?
The procedure has a number of steps which the tenant must follow in order to fully comply with the rule of ‘set off’. These are outlined in our guide that explains the rule in more detail and also explains how a tenant can make a claim for damages.
For further details and more expert guidance, click here to check out our guide from Head of Dispute Resolution at mydeposits, Suzy Hershman.