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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Witholding rent payments

It can be tempting to stop paying rent if you feel the property you are renting is not up to standard or the landlord is not sticking to the tenancy agreement.  This is a risky procedure as your landlord may try to evict you if you stop paying rent. 

Tenants have a legal obligation to pay rent. Always get advice if you are considering withholding rent from your landlord.  If you don't follow the correct procedures, you could face eviction.

Withholding rent

You may wish to withhold rent to try to force your landlord to take action about something, such as repairs. If your landlord is failing to provide a service that you are paying for as part of your rent (for example cleaning, gardening or meals) you should only withhold the money covering that service.

Withholding rent is a risky and often ineffective way of asserting your tenancy rights. Get advice from Housing Rights before taking action.

Landlord refuses to repair

You aren't entitled to stop paying rent just because your landlord won't carry out repairs. If your landlord's refusing to carry out essential repairs, it's important that you write to the landlord first, explaining what repairs need to be done and the impact that the problem is having on your ability to manage in the property.  Ask the landlord to respond by a certain date and let you know what work will be done to sort out the problem. 

If your landlord doesn't reply or continues to refuse to do the necessary work, you might want to write again.  You could  suggest that you use some of your next rental payment to pay for the repairs. If you do this, you need to make sure that you 

  • give the landlord plenty of notice and give the landlord a chance to carry out the work himself first
  • get at least 3 quotes for the work that needs to be done, send these to the landlord and explain that you are choosing the cheapest quote
  • keep copies of all letters you send to your landlord about this issue and copies of the quotes and receipts for the work. 

This is a really risky strategy.  Your landlord could try to evict you if you don't pay your rent and you may not have any right to stay on in the property if he does this.  It's important that you get advice from Housing Rights  if you are considering using your rent to pay for repairs

Withholding rent

Some tenants may try to force their landlord into carrying out repairs by refusing to pay rent until the problems in the property are sorted out. This is also a very risky strategy and can lead to eviction. If you do decide to withhold rent, you should

  • write to your landlord first, giving the landlord an opportunity to deal with the repairs
  • write to your landlord again explaining that if the work isn't done by a certain date you will have no option but to withhold the next month's rent
  • explain that you will hand over all rent due once the repairs have been carried out
  • put the rent money into a separate account and send the landlord proof that the money is in that account each time that rent becomes due

Once your landlord decides to put the problem right, for example by improving services or carrying out repairs, then you need to pay over any rent you've been holding onto.  If you're living in unsafe or unsuitable housing you can ask the council to inspect the property to see if it meets the minimum fitness and public safety standards.

Housing benefit

Your landlord has a right to request that housing benefit be paid directly into his or her account if you are more than 6 weeks in arrears.