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Can we withhold part of rent over a broken washer and dryer?

Saratoga Springs, NY |

I am currently writing a follow up letter to our landlord about having a broken washer and dryer. We contacted him about a month ago. It has been a month, and he hasn't made any contact at all after saying he would look into the warranty.

Our lease states, “The Landlord is responsible for maintenance, repair, and replacement of dishwasher, washer, dryer, refrigerator, stove and oven in unit."

Do we have the right to withhold a portion of rent to cover laundry at the laundry mat? This is what I would like to put in our letter:

"Please consider this letter as a follow-up to my initial telephone call informing you of the problem. If no repairs have been done by August 1st, we will be withholding $100 from rent each month to cover the cost of doing laundry at the laundry mat."

Attorney Answers 3

Posted

Dear Saratoga Springs Tenant:

While your lease contains (whether stated or not) the New York State Warranty of Habitability[(New York Real Property Law Section 235-b) http://law.onecle.com/new-york/real-property/RPP0235-B_235-B.html], the broken washer and dryer, do not affect habitability to the degree required to invoke the Warranty of Habitability as a defense to nonpayment of rent.

While the loss of the washer and dryer surely have an impact on your use and enjoyment of the house, the loss is more in the nature of a breach of contract, where the non-breaching party may claim an entitlement to a judgment for money damages, the $100 per month in laundromat expenses, is not likely worth you risking being sued by the landlord for nonpayment of rent and then needing an attorney to assist you in defending your tenancy in court.

While New York brought the Warranty of Habitability to all residential leases, the law does not provide for a simple method for tenants to enforce their tenancy rights, such as to repair and deduct, as do other states with a similar warranty of habitability. Instead, New York forces all tenants with a perceived breach of the warranty of habitability into either withholding rent and then being sued in a nonpayment proceeding, or into paying the rent, and suing the landlord for their damages in Small Claims Court.

You may inform your landlord that he is in breach of the lease and in breach of the statutory warranty of habitability, that your damages are piling up at the rate of $100 per month for your out-of-pocket expenses in doing your laundry in the laundromat. You do not need to announce the remedy that you will pursue. Demand the immediate repair or replacement. Inform the landlord you will be guided by your attorney in the event that the washer and dryer are not repaired or replaced.

Good luck.

The answer provided to you is in the nature of general information. The general proposition being that you should try to avoid a bad outcome if you can.

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Posted

Contact the local department of building to file a complaint. Consider small claims court.

If this answer is helpful, then please mark the helpful button. If this is the best answer, then please indicate it. Thanks. For further information you should see an attorney and discuss the matter completely. If you are in the New York City area, then you can reach me during normal business hours at 718 329 9500 or www.mynewyorkcitylawyer.com.

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Posted

It is unlikely that you can withhold rent. State statues are very specific as to when a tenant can withhold rent -- and a washer/dryer problem usually does not qualify for the "repair and deduct" remedy.

That being said, your landlord is in breach of your lease agreement. You may have remedies available to you. Consult a local landlord/tenant attorney for more guidance.

DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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