A common question from tenants is whether or not they can withhold rent from the landlord. An example situation is when a tenant notifies a landlord of a repair that needs to be made and the repair is a type the landlord is obligated to make. If the landlord fails to make the repair, can the tenant withhold the rent?
According to N.C.G.S. §40-44, a tenant may not unilaterally withhold rent from his or her landlord. However, a tenant may withhold rent if the landlord agrees in writing to the withholding. For instance, if a tenant paid for repairs the landlord is legally obligated to pay for, the landlord may send a note to the tenant authorizing him or her to withhold the amount for the repairs from next month’s rent.
Unfortunately, if the landlord will not agree in writing to a reduction in rent, then the tenant will have to file a claim to reimburse the tenant for the cost paid by the tenant for the repairs or to compensate the tenant for the reduction in value to the rental property. If you file this claim in small claims court, generally, you will need to be able to prove:
- You have a written or oral lease with the landlord;
- The landlord is responsible for the repair under the Residential Rental Agreements Act, local building codes and/or the lease agreement;
- The landlord was provided written notification of the need for the repair (not necessary in an emergency situation) and the landlord failed to make the repair within a reasonable amount of time;
- A copy of the bill and a copy of your cancelled check or bank statement showing you paid for the repair yourself;
- Evidence showing the rental value of the property was reduced by the landlord’s failure to make the required repairs.
See generally, the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Landlord Tenant Rights Brochure for more information.
If you believe your rights are being violated by your landlord, contact a knowledgeable attorney today.
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