You should consider withholding rent when the repair problem is so big that it is not practical to repair and deduct. A broken furnace or a badly leaking roof are examples of this kind of repair problem.

Unless L&I has declared your home unfit, it is risky to withhold all of your rent, even though the law says you can.

For instance, if two out of four rooms are affected, withhold half your rent. If you could not stay in your home for one week out of four due to lack of heat or water, for example, withhold one-quarter of your rent.

  1. Notify the landlord in writing how much rent you plan to withhold
  2. Give the landlord time to fix the problem
  3. If possible, get an L&I inspection

You should open a separate bank account which only contains your withheld rent. Continue to deposit your rent into this account as it becomes due while you are withholding, but do not use this account for anything other than escrowed rent!  Many judges will accept this as a legitimate attempt to escrow rent as long as you are not mixing the money with your regular account or making withdrawals.

You should expect to have to present your case in court so be careful to keep all related documentation.