Remember: The information below is intended to provide general guidance. Each situation is unique and students are strongly advised to talk to a CSLS attorney to understand all of their options before taking legal action.
What is “rent escrow”?
If you are having difficulty getting your landlord to fix problems with the condition of your rental property, you may be able to take advantage of the rent escrow process. The rent escrow process is one of a tenant’s strongest legal recourses. As long as the tenant follows the steps described below, rather than pay your rent to your landlord, rent is deposited with the clerk of court’s office for the Athens Municipal Court.
Your landlord is required to maintain the property in a fit, habitable, safe and sanitary condition. Your landlord must maintain the property, as required by applicable building, housing, health and safety codes and he/she must adhere to all requirements of your lease. Some examples of problems include:
•Garbage/rubbish collection facilities
•Dangerous stairways or steps
•Furnished appliances that do not work
If there are problems with the condition of your rental property, you should take the steps necessary to notify your landlord of the problems as soon as possible and be able to take advantage of the escrow process if repairs are not made in a timely manner.
The information outlined below is a general explanation of the escrow process. We encourage you to contact The Center for Student Legal Services at 740-594-8093 for assistance if you have specific questions about your situation.
What must I do in order to be eligible to deposit my rent with the court also known as “rent escrow”?
You must do the following:
- Provide written notice to your landlord of the problem(s) with the condition of your rental property.
You must provide written notice to your landlord clearly explaining the problems you are experiencing at your rental property and requesting that the problems be fixed. We have a sample “Notice to Remedy Conditions” located on our website: ****. We recommend delivering the written notice as soon as you discover the problems with your rental property. Keep a copy of the written notice for your records. It is best to have proof that you delivered the written notice to your landlord via certified mail or delivery confirmation through the post office. It is also a good idea to deliver a copy via regular mail because some landlords refuse to pick up certified mail. If you hand deliver the written notice, be sure to have a witness who is over 18 who could testify if necessary to prove that you delivered the notice.
You should also gather evidence illustrating your concerns – photograph or video tape any of the problems on which you have given your written notice. Try to keep a record of the date you took this picture or video. Problems that do not photograph or video tape well, such as inefficient heat, electrical outlets that do not work, or no water pressure are proven with witnesses.
- Allow the landlord reasonable time (usually at least 30 days except in case of urgent repairs) to address and resolve the problem.
Your landlord has a reasonable amount of time to resolve the problems with the condition of your property, which is why it is very important to provide written notice of problems as soon as possible. Generally, this “reasonable” time period is thirty (30) days from the time written notice is provided except in the case of urgent repairs. You must continue to make timely rental payments during this time period. You can only exercise your right to deposit your rental payments in escrow after the expiration of thirty (30) days except in the case of urgent/extraordinary circumstances.
- You must be current in your rental payments.
If you live in a household of five tenants and one person is behind on their portion of the rental payment, you do not have the right to escrow your rent. Be sure that all of your roommates are current on rent if you are having problems with the condition of your rental!
- You must deposit your rental payment with the Clerk on or before your rental due date.
If the above conditions are met and your landlord has still not fixed the problems with your rental property after thirty days, you may deposit your rent with the Athens Municipal Court Clerk. The Athens Municipal Court Clerk is located on the second floor of the Athens City Building across from the city parking garage. The Clerk`s office is open until 4pm Monday thru Friday, so if your rental due date falls on a Saturday, you must make plans to deposit your rent by the Friday before the due date.
The Clerk of Court will give you a form entitled: “Application by Tenant to Deposit Rent with the Clerk of Court.” After you have completed the application, the Clerk will accept your rent payment and give you a receipt. You must pay the Clerk with cash, a money order, or a certified check. Personal checks will not be accepted.
What happens after I take advantage of the “rent escrow” process and begin depositing my rent with the Clerk of Court?
After you begin the rent escrow process, you should continue to pay your rent to the Clerk of Court until the repairs have been completed by your landlord. Each time you pay the Clerk of Court, you will receive a receipt. Save the receipts for your records.
If your landlord fixes the problems identified in your written notice, you may resume paying your rent to your landlord as usual. You should notify the Clerk that the repairs have been made and the funds may be released to your Landlord unless you believe you should be entitled to reduced rent based upon the severity of the problems with the condition of your rental property.
Your landlord may disagree with your allegation that there are necessary repairs needed at your rental property and request that the court release your rent from escrow. The court will schedule a hearing to determine whether or not the repairs requested are necessary and required by law. You and your landlord will have the opportunity to present evidence.
Your landlord may make some repairs and then ask the court to release your rent from escrow. Your landlord will be required to prove to the Court that the money should be released. If the repairs still have not been made, you will have to prove to the Court that the repairs have not been made. The court will schedule a hearing where you and your landlord will have the opportunity to present your evidence.
Can I just stop paying my rent if the landlord does not make needed repairs?
NO. You do not have a legal right to just stop paying rent because there are problems with the condition of your property. If you follow the steps described above, you may have the right to escrow your rent, but not paying your rent while you are living in the rental property is not a legal way to handle the problem.
This information does not constitute legal advice, nor is it intended as a substitute for legal advice.