Escrowing Your Rent

As a tenant, the only time you do not have to pay rent to your landlord is when you pay it into escrow with the court.

You can escrow your rent if you believe that your landlord has violated any of his obligations that significantly affect health and safety,

For example if your landlord has not:

1. Made all repairs necessary to make the house or apartment livable;

2. Kept in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating, and ventilation systems;

3. Supplied hot water and heat at all times;

4. Kept hallways and stairways safe and sanitary;

Where to Start

1. You must be current with your rent before giving your landlord written notice of your intent to escrow the rent. If not, your landlord may try to evict you after he receives your notice. And the court may reject your Application to Escrow Rent (see below).

2. Before you can escrow your rent money with the Court, the law requires that you must first send your landlord WRITTEN notice of the violations to the place where you normally pay your rent.

Ask the post office to send it “certified mail, return receipt requested.” Always make a copy of the notice before you send it.

3. The notice you send must list the specific violations about which you are complaining. The letter must tell the landlord what needs to be fixed and what will be done if it’s not fixed, such as terminating your tenancy.

You must give your landlord 30 days to correct the violations unless the violation is a serious one, then the time period can be significantly shorter. For example: If the violation is “no heat in winter,” then 24-48 hours may be considered sufficient.

4. You must be sure that:

a. You are current with your rent;

b. The violations you are alleging are true and well documented with either witnesses or pictures; and

c. The violations are not caused by your own actions (such as failure to pay a heating bill).

If you don’t follow these steps, your landlord might be able to have you evicted. If you have followed these steps, then any attempt by the landlord to evict you may be considered “retaliatory.” You can present evidence of his attempts to retaliate against you to the Court.

If your landlord does try to retaliate against you, then the law may allow you to sue him for money and will allow any attorney who represents you to get attorney fees from the landlord.

Do not withhold rent to get your landlord to make repairs.

If That Fails

5. If the landlord has received your written notice and still fails to make the needed repairs, you can go to the Clerk of Courts for an Application to Escrow Rent.

Take your rent, the certified returned receipt and a copy of the written notice you have sent to the landlord with you.

6. There may be a filing fee.

After you have escrowed your rent, the clerk will notify the landlord. You can also file a written request with Clerk of Courts for the Judge to hold a hearing to order the landlord to make the repairs or to pay out of the money in escrow any person who does the repairs that the landlord will not do.

This brochure is meant to give you general information and not specific legal advice.Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated April, 2012. CE-63-BR-195-CLAS