In landlord-tenant law, rent withholding is a tenant's refusal to pay the rent or reduction in rent paid in response to landlord’s unremedied illegal behavior. Most commonly, courts will reject a landlord’s action to collect unpaid rent which the tenant withheld because the landlord breached the implied warranty of habitability. For example, Park West Management Corp. v. Mitchell, the seminal New York Court of Appeals case establishing the implied warranty of habitability, upheld a tenant’s ten percent reduction in rent paid because the landlord breached the implied warranty of habitability by failing to maintain the premises in habitable conditions. Subsequent New York cases, for example Ambassador Realty Co. v. Wachtel, a New York, City of New York Civil Court emphasized that “[a] tenant has a legal right to withhold rent to protest conditions in his apartment or building.” In general though, a tenant considering whether they can withhold rent as a recourse should consider whether the landlord is breaching the implied warranty of habitability, as the statutes and case law of that jurisdiction construe the doctrine.
[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]