Can a Tenant Deduct the Cost of Maintenance from the Rent?

Property maintenance is the second most important task after owning a property. In case of rented properties there is usually a discord among the landlords and the tenants over the maintenance of the property let out on rent. Many a times, the dispute can be nipped in the bud by stating the mutual terms and conditions in the lease agreement that stands as a proof of agreement between both the parties involved. However, it is indeed the landlord’s responsibility to provide the tenant with safe and habitable premises. The landlord must also undertake necessary property repairs as and when required.
If the landlord refuses to initiate the repairs or is unable to take the required action, the tenant can get the repairs done. However, the tenant should serve a proper notice to the landlord, mentioning in particular the type of problem faced, the inconvenience arising from it, the safety hazards and the required action to be taken to fix the problem. It should be noted that if the landlord refuses/ fails to get the repairs fixed within a particular time frame, the tenant can get the repairs done. In such a case the tenant is entitled to recover the amount he has spent on the repairs from the landlord. The tenant can also deduct the money from the rent or otherwise.
It should be noted that here the repairs stand for those repairs which are extremely urgent and necessary. Such repairs would not include those alterations/ additions required by the tenant for mere convenience. Necessary repairs would include those repairs that account for safe premises that are habitable and can be used appropriately.
The Rent Control Acts for different States also throw sufficient light on this aspect. According to these Acts, the landlord is supposed to keep the rented premises in a state of good repairs. When a landlord fails to get the repairs (the ones binding on him) done even after being served a written notice by the tenant within a reasonable time frame, the tenant has the right to get the repairs done at his own expense and deduct the amount spent from the rent paid to the landlord. However, this is subject to the condition that the amount deducted/ recovered in a particular year should not exceed one-twelfth of the rent paid by the tenant for that particular year.
If the property is not fit for human habitation and needs urgent repairs with the landlord not responding to the repair notice then the tenant can also apply to the rent controller (as per the Rent Act) seeking permission to get the repairs done at his/ her own expense. In such a case, the tenant should submit a cost estimate to the Rent controller for such repairs. The Rent controller may allow the landlord to explain his stand. The controller conducts the necessary inquiries and considers the cost estimate and once convinced may allow the tenant to go ahead with the repairs by giving an order in writing for the same. If this route is taken, the tenant can get the repairs done himself in a lawful manner and deduct the cost involved from the rent. The money can also be recovered from the property landlord. The thing to be remembered is that the repair cost should by no means exceed the sum mentioned by the controller.

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