What is a Rent Escrow Action?
A rent escrow action is a legal way for a residential tenant to bring a claim that requires his or her landlord to make needed repairs and/or to comply with the terms of the lease. Keep in mind, a court can only hear cases involving residential property located in its own county. A residential tenant cannot be evicted on the basis of demanding repairs, calling a Housing Inspector or starting a rent escrow action. The tenant can be evicted for not paying the rent due to the landlord up to the time of filing the rent escrow action or not depositing the full amount with the court at the time the action is filed. The landlord may allege that there are other reasons the tenant should be evicted. The tenant must reside in the problem property during this time. The tenant cannot file a rent escrow action after they have moved. The tenant can ask the court to order the landlord to make repairs, reduce the rent until repairs are complete, refund a portion of past rent when repairs were not made and other relief.
What must happen before I can file a Rent Escrow Action?
One of the following steps must occur before you can file your rent escrow action:
- The residential tenant must provide the landlord with written notice listing the needed repairs or describing what part of the lease the landlord has not completed. The notice must have been personally delivered to the landlord or mailed to the place where rent is usually paid. If it has been at least 14 days since the tenant provided the landlord with a written notice, then the tenant may file.
- A local housing inspector completed a code violation report and the deadline the inspector gave the landlord to make repairs has passed without the repairs being completed. The tenant must ask the inspector for a copy of the report.
- A local housing inspector completed a code violation report and the tenant believes the inspector gave the landlord too much time to complete the repairs. The tenant must ask the inspector for a copy of the report.
Steps to file a Rent Escrow Action
- Complete an Affidavit of Rent Escrow.
- Attach a copy of the Code Inspection Report by the inspector OR the tenant’s letter to the landlord requesting repairs (Case can be filed if the tenant does not have a copy).
- Pay the filing fee or obtain an order from the court waiving the fee.
- Deposit any rent that is owed with the court. Personal checks are not accepted. Cash or cashier’s check is acceptable. Check with the Court Administrator/Housing Court for acceptable forms of payment.
Your Court Date
Once your Affidavit has been properly filed with the court, the clerk will prepare a Notice of Hearing for Rent Escrow and attach a copy of the Affidavit of Rent Escrow and either the code violation report or your letter to the landlord requesting repairs. A court date will be set within 10 to 14 days after the rent is deposited with the court unless there is a pending eviction action. If so, both the eviction and the rent escrow will be set for the same date.
What will Happen at Your Court Hearing?
Once the case is decided, the judicial officer will issue a Decision and Order. The Decision and Order will address who is to receive the rent that is deposited with the court. The court may order a portion to the landlord and a portion to the tenant or may order all the monies to one party. The court may schedule a future date to ensure the landlord has complied with its court.
What if my Landlord Makes the Repairs Before the Scheduled Court Date?
The tenant notifies the court in writing that the needed repairs have been made, the clerk will release the rent to the landlord. The hearing will be cancelled. If the tenant and landlord enter into a written agreement signed by all parties distributing the rent between them, the clerk must release the rent in accordance with the written agreement.
What if my Rent is not Deposited Correctly with the Court?
The landlord may file a Counterclaim for Possession of the Premises or a separate eviction action if the tenant did not or does not deposit all rent due.