Using repair-and-deduct at illegal rental

Rent it Right

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Q: We're renting a single-family home from a landlord who refuses to do basic repairs. When the hot water heater broke and the roof began to leak, we were forced to repair them ourselves and deduct the cost from the rent (our state law lets us do this). After getting a pay-or-quit notice, we did a little homework and discovered that the home never had a certificate of occupancy. What effect will this have on the landlord's attempt to evict us? --Jim and Janelle J. A: It sounds like you're preparing to defend yourself against an eviction lawsuit. To win, you'll need to convince the judge or jury that you properly used your state's "repair and deduct" procedure, in which tenants pay for repairs and deduct the cost from the rent. Most states that allow tenants to use this remedy set specific guidelines. Typically, the repairs must be for problems that make the rental unsafe or unfit for habitation; the tenants must have given the landlord notice of the problem and a...