Is disrepair a Defence to rent arrears?

Is disrepair a Defence to rent arrears?

Is disrepair a Defence to rent arrears?

Is disrepair a Defence to rent arrears?

Is disrepair a Defence to rent arrears? If you’re a tenant living in poor housing conditions, you may be tempted to withhold rent payments. However, failure to pay rent opens you up to legal action from your landlord. In certain cases, disrepair can potentially act as a legal defence to rent arrears. In this blog, we’ll look at using the disrepair defence properly in England and Wales.

What is the Disrepair Defence?

The disrepair defence is a legal argument tenants can use if taken to court over rent arrears. It states that instead of withholding rent, the tenant can pay it into a court escrow account because of the landlord’s failure to repair housing defects. This defence aims to incentivize landlords to make necessary repairs.

To use the disrepair defence properly, the tenant has to show:

  • The property suffers from serious disrepairs the landlord failed to fix
  • The tenant notified the landlord of the issues reasonably and in writing
  • The tenant made efforts to get the repairs done before withholding rent
  • The tenant paid the owed rent into an escrow account after applying the defence

If the defence is accepted, the court will order the rent to be held until repairs are completed. This protects tenants from eviction while also meeting rent obligations.

Risks of the Disrepair Defence:

While the disrepair defence can be an option for tenants in poor housing, there are some risks:

  • The court may reject the defence and order eviction anyway
  • Tenants may struggle to pay large sums of back rent into escrow
  • Landlords could retaliate or harass tenants who use the defence

Because of these risks, getting legal advice is crucial before using the disrepair defence. A housing solicitor can help raise the defence appropriately and increase the chances of success.

Repairs vs. Rent Arrears:

In general, it’s better for tenants not to accrue rent arrears at all. Communicating repair issues clearly in writing and allowing reasonable time for landlords to fix problems is advisable. Withholding rent without proper use of the disrepair defence can lead to more harm than good.

While imperfect, understanding the lawful options like the disrepair defence remains important for tenants facing both housing defects and rent arrears. Professional legal support provides the best route to raise a strong defence while avoiding retaliation.

Important links

Housing Disrepair Advice:

Housing Ombudsman: