Renters Rights After Hurricane Sandy: What You Need to Know

In New Jersey, you are protected under a warrant of habitability, which mandates that a landlord provide a livable space. The property owner has an ongoing requirement to keep the dwelling in shape and make sure that essentials like heat, hot water and indoor plumbing are all operational.

If the landlord refuses to make repairs, you can take it on themselves to “repair and deduct,” i.e. make the repairs yourself and deduct the costs from the rent, as long as they give notice to the landlord and the expenses are reasonable and documented.

Note: repairs to hurricane damage should not come out of your security deposits.

What if my Landlord won’t make repairs, my rental is uninhabitable and I “repair and deduct” is not an option? 

If your rental was  damaged by Hurricane Sandy and your landlord refuses to make repairs this is called “constructive eviction.”  You can move out before the lease ends and not be responsible for rent for the time left on the lease. You are also entitled to have your security deposit returned to you.

Just some of the conditions that fall under “constructive eviction” include  no heat, no water, a broken toilet, a broken elevator, flooding and excessive and constant disturbances. It is important to have proof of the bad conditions. You can get this proof by having a building inspection done and taking pictures before you move out.

To arrange an inspection:

  • If you live in a building with three or more  apartments, you may arrange an inspection by calling the State Inspection service at 609-633-6241, or visit http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/codes/offices/housinginspection.html
  • If you live in a building with two or less apartments, call your municipality to arrange for a building inspection
  • It is important that you first give the landlord written notice of the defective conditions and a reasonable amount of time to make repairs. Send your notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy for your records

What if I receive an Eviction Notice?

hurricane_sandy_new_jersey_evictionsYou do NOT have to leave.  The only person who can legally evict you is a judge. In fact, a lockout or eviction is illegal if it is not done pursuant to a court order. A judge can order your eviction only after a hearing, and the landlord must show one of 18 possible bases for eviction under the Anti-Eviction Act.

Any landlord who illegally evicts a tenant has committed a disorderly persons offense. For detailed information about the eviction process, contact New Jersey Legal Services at 1-888-576-5529 or visit LSNJ Law to learn more about Renters Rights.

If you are searching for a new rental you can register for Automatic Property Alerts on the Patrick Parker Realty website to get desired listings delivered directly to your inbox.  Or call us at 732-455-5252 to speak with a dedicated Hurricane Sandy displacement specialis