Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent by State

 Below you will find helpful information on withholding rent in the United States when your landlord fails to correct or fix a problem in the home you are renting. The information below may come in handy, especially if you are dealing with mold issues, and your health is being affected. This is not legal advice. It is only shared for educational purposes. 

Personal note: If at all possible, I do not recommend staying in a sick building because the effects on our health can be catastrophic. In my experience, landlords will seldom remediate a toxigenic mold problem responsibly. I’ve seen and experienced this first hand both in commercial and residential properties. Often the best choice is to leave and try to get back your deposits as quickly as possible.

If you move into a rental and start feeling sick and experiencing strange and sudden symptoms, always rule out your environment. There could be many reasons for a sudden change in health after moving, but one of the most common reasons can be hidden toxigenic mold. Visible water damage, mold stains on heating and cooling vents, leaks around windows, musty smells, rotten or musty smells near outlets and light fixtures, wet or musty carpeting are just a few issues that may point to a bigger problem. 

For mold issues in rental units, you can follow the steps below as a guide. Each state has different laws, so be sure to check out your state’s requirements by clicking the links towards the bottom of this article. 

Below are a few steps you can follow and or adapt based on your state’s laws. 

1. Take photos of all areas with water damage, mold stains, and any visible leaks you find.

2. Hire a licensed Environmental Hygienist or Licensed Mold Assessor to take samples of the air and of visible mold. Know that they will also have to take a control sample of the outside air. They should conduct a thorough visual inspection of the property both inside and out. Request that they do infrared thermal imaging to detect issues behind walls and in hard to reach areas. A qualified and experienced hygienist will measure moisture levels on all walls and check the level of humidity in the air. They will also check all perimeter walls, flooring substrates, baseboards, AC systems including vents and ducts, window and door assemblies, ceilings, and if applicable – attics and basements.

3. Send results from your inspection and testing along with a 7-day notice to cure to your landlord via certified mail and via email. 

4. Decide on whether you will terminate your lease or withhold rent. Once seven days have passed, you have the option of withholding rent until remediation is complete, or you may end your lease contract and move out without penalty.

If they refuse to take action, you can report them to your state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation and seek help from a seasoned mold attorney. Be sure to keep records of all receipts and find a mold literate doctor if you believe that mold has made you sick.

For more information on the law and mold in rentals, click here.

For information by state, click any of the links below.

New Jersey
New York
South Carolina

State Laws or Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent

  • State Laws on Rent Withholding and Repair and Deduct Remedies “Most states have laws that give tenants specific options if the landlord fails to provide essential services or repair major problems, such as allowing tenants to withhold rent or repair the problem and deduct the cost of doing so from the rent. Find out what options are available in your state.” Source 

This page was updated November 2019