5 rights you didn’t know you had as a renter
Your landlord has to follow a lot of rules: When you think of your landlord, do you think “I love that guy!” I hope so. But if you don’t, you should question if they’re holding up their end of the bargain. If they’re not, you can certainly do something about it. You may feel like your landlord has all the power in the relationship, but I’m here to tell you why that’s not true. In fact, most states (including NJ) go to great lengths to protect the rights of renters. But most lessees don’t know what they’re entitled to. Well I’ve got your back. Have a taste of this knowledge-sandwich:
A major topic of complaint of lessees is regarding security deposits. Here’s what you should know:
How much is too much?:
Your landlord may only charge you up to one and a half month’s rent as a security deposit. And if they wish to increase the security deposit amount due to a pet, they are still bound by this magic number of a month and a half. They are always welcome to charge less than this amount, but never more.
Giving the deposit:
Your security deposit doesn’t belong to your landlord. When you provide a security deposit, your landlord is to immediately put the amount in an interest bearing account. Here’s the part most don’t realize: Landlords are required to give tenants a statement in writing including the name and address of the bank, along with the type of account, current rate of interest and amount deposited within 30 days of receipt of a security deposit. And here’s the really great part: If notification is not given or if the security is not deposited or invested in accordance with this law, the tenant has the right to require that the security deposit, plus 7 % per year actually be used to pay thr rent rather than function as a security deposit. Failing to provide this information to the renter forfeits the landlord’s right to the security, and they may not ask for another deposit during the lease term. I don’t know about you, but my last landlord could have been held accountable for this.
Returning the deposit:
Here’s another one that’s really important: If the landlord fails to return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days, then the tenant is entitled to sue the landlord for the return of the security deposit in small claims court.
If the tenant sues successfully for the return of the security deposit, the Court can award recovery of double the amount of money, along with full costs of any action and, in the Court’s discretion, reasonable attorney’s fees.
I don’t mean to beat up on my last landlord. Though he was a decent enough guy, he messed up on this one too. It took him nearly two months to return my deposit. I wish I was a Realtor back then because I didn’t realize my rights were being violated. The worst part about it was that he used about seven hundred dollars for repainting, cleaning and spackling minor holes. I thought that seemed like a lot and so I asked him for receipts. Well, I never heard back from him. And guess what? A landlord is not allowed to spend any of your money without providing you an itemized receipt of the exact amount that was spent. Furthermore, a landlord may not spend your deposit amount on any normal wear and tear. There’re specific guidelines in NJ’s “Truth in Renting” guide which you can find here.
Here’s another gem no one knows about. So your AC is broken and your landlord isn’t exactly jumping t have it fixed. Well, you may want to take advantage of something called “Repair and deduct.”
Repair and deduct is a legal right a tenant can take to remedy a “vital facility” by paying for the repair and then subtracting it from the monthly rent.
Vital facilities are those things necessary to make the apartment habitable, such as a heating system, running hot and cold water, an operating toilet, air conditioning and so on. Keep in mind that you have to give your landlord adequate time to respond. You can’t repair and deduct if your landlord hasn’t answered your text from earlier this morning. But if they are negligent or unreasonable, repair and deduct makes sense for you. Just make sure to keep a record of the request. But next time you think you’re out of luck and have to suffer because of your landlord’s negligence, remember your rights as a renter.
Sale of the space:
Finally we have the case of a sale of your rented space. Your landlord cannot simply decide that he wants to sell his house (the one you’re paying to live in,) and kick you out. If he or she decides that they want to sell, they must give you, the lessee, an opportunity to make an offer on the home first. Assuming you don’t buy it, lets consider this: your landlord sells your rented home six months into your lease to someone else. Well, you really don’t have to worry about that sale. The lease is still binding on the new owner and they may not move in until your lease term has expired.
Like I said, renters have plenty of rights which are protected by the legal system. Its just a shame more people don’t know about these rights. So if your best friend is always complaining about her landlord, you may want to send this one over to her.
I hope you enjoyed this article about your rights as a renter. Please share with your friends, your family and your dog.
My name is Brandon Rasmussen and I’m a Realtor. If you are thinking of buying, selling, or renting a home, I can make it simple and stress-free. Give me a call or text at 609-651-5167. Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.