When you have a problem with an apartment or home you are renting, and your landlord refuses to address it, you can put your rent payments in escrow until the problem is fixed. Putting rent into escrow means that you pay your rent to the clerk of court or some other government agency. Under this system, the clerk of court releases the rent money to the landlord after the home or apartment is repaired.
City ordinances usually give tenants have the right to escrow rent payments if the landlord fails to meet obligations required by the city's landlord/tenant law. Tenants can put rent into escrow if the landlord fails to live up to his end of the lease agreement, a government agency determines the rental home or apartment poses a health or safety hazard or it doesn't comply with the building code.
Before a tenant can start putting rent into escrow, he must sent the landlord a "notice to repair" letter that details exactly what needs to be fixed. The letter should be dated, sent by certified mail and the tenant should request a receipt as proof the letter was delivered to the landlord. Usually, landlords get up to 30 days to make repairs after receiving the "notice to repair," but shorter timeframes are necessary for serious problems, such as no heat in the middle of winter.
Tenants must continue to pay rent during the 30-day waiting period after the "notice to repair" is sent and afterwards. Failure to pay rent will leave renters vulnerable to being evicted. Tenants who are current on their rent will have far more credibility with court officials in landlord/tenant dispute. If the rent is not current, courts are likely to side with the landlord in the eviction process regardless of any complaints the tenant may have about the condition of the rental.
If the landlord makes no repairs 30 days after receiving the "notice to repair," tenants can start escrowing the rent. Tenants also can ask the clerk of court to order the landlord to either make the repairs, reduce the rent until the problem is fixed or allow them to use the escrowed funds to make repairs. If the problem is bad enough, a tenant may be able to terminate the lease agreement with no penalty.
Tim Grant has been a journalist since 1989 and has worked for several daily newspapers, including the Charleston "Post & Courier," the "Savannah News-Press," the "Spartanburg Herald-Journal," the "St. Petersburg Times" and the "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette." He has covered a variety of subjects and beats, including crime, government, education, religion and business. He graduated from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science in business administration.