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Can A Tenant Withhold Rent Due To Poor Living Conditions?

Tenants assume that they can withhold rent if there are unsatisfactory conditions in their house or apartment. This makes sense, but it is not the law in South Carolina.

The landlord tenant law provides that the tenant must give the landlord written notice to address unsatisfactory conditions within 14 days, or the rental contract will be terminated. Unless the landlord at least makes a start toward addressing the problem within the 14 days, the tenant can then terminate the lease, move out and find somewhere else to live, without paying any future rent until the original lease term expires.

Another statute states that the tenant, again after written notice to the landlord, can obtain reasonable amounts of essential services (water, heat, etc.) and then discount the cost of those services can be credited against the rent that is due. For example, if the lights or heat go out, the tenant can obtain the utility service and take credit for that charge against the rent. Written notice still needs to be sent to the landlord.

The law makes clear that the tenant is not authorized to make repairs on the landlord’s behalf, even after written demand. And nowhere does law say the tenant can withhold rent if the landlord refuses to address unsatisfactory conditions in the rental facilities.