As a landlord, you’re able to make money by providing one of the basic necessities of life to your tenant. Doing so requires a lot of work. You might try to handle some repairs or maintenance yourself to keep costs low. You also probably screen tenants to ensure they have a history of paying rent and enough income to cover their costs.
In order to generate a profit while charging an affordable level of rent, you will have to balance the need for repairs, upgrades and maintenance against the revenue generated by your rental units. Unfortunately, sometimes your units don’t generate the money that they should.
Often, the issue stems from a tenant not paying rent. Sometimes tenants know that they need to quickly address and unpaid rent issue. Other times, they believe they are in the right to withhold rent for one reason or another. Do tenants ever have the legal right to withhold rental payments in New York?
Yes, your tenant can withhold rent to make repairs
If your tenant advises you that there is an issue with the property that affects their safety or ability to live in the space, you generally need to take steps to remedy the issue and ensure that the unit is habitable. They have to allow you a reasonable amount of time to make those repairs.
Landlords typically need to make such repairs at their own expense unless they have proof that the tenant caused the issue. If a landlord fails to take timely action or if the issue is so severe that a tenant cannot wait, they have the option of covering the costs themselves and then withholding the amount paid from their next rental payments.
It’s important to note that there are limits on this right, including the requirement that the issue is severe enough to impact the safe habitability of the space. Your tenant should have receipts and evidence of using the withheld amount on the repair of the unit.
If your tenant has an unpaid balance and they do not have proof that they have used the funds that should have gone to you to make repairs to the property, you may need to take action against them to recoup that lost rent or possibly evict them from the unit.