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2. The water tap was broken. The landlord is responsible for repairing it, but he refused to do so. I paid $500 to replace the tap with a new one. Can I pay $500 less in rent?

The answer is not at all straightforward.

 

The common law does recognise that the tenant may have a right to set-off the costs of carrying out repairs against the rent payable, but if and only if it is clear that the landlord has a duty to carry out the repairs, and where the amount to be expended is reasonable and undisputed.

 

In practice, arguments can easily ensue over whether the tenant can legitimately deduct the repair costs from the rent.  Firstly, it may not be clear-cut whether the landlord or the tenant or neither of them is under a duty to carry out repairs.  Secondly, the landlord may dispute the extent of the repairs and whether repair costs are reasonable.

 

Furthermore, the express words of the tenancy agreement may exclude the tenant from the right to set-off any amount against the rent payable.

 

If the tenant has decided to deduct the amount from the rent, but it turns out that he is held not entitled to make such a deduction, he runs the risk that the landlord may then exercise the right to forfeit the tenancy from the tenant.

 

Alternatively, the tenant can sue the landlord for breach of the covenant to repair and recover reasonable costs of carrying out the repairs from the landlord in damages.

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