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Residence Life 

 Tenant's Rights & Responsibilities 

 

SPOTLIGHT

Tenant Rights

  • To rent property on a non-discriminating basis.
  • To receive written notice of rent increases thirty (30) days in advance, when dealing with an oral lease.
  • To enjoy a home that is clean, dry, warm, and up to the standards set by the Borough Housing Code.
  • To expect privacy from unwarranted landlord intrusion.
  • To obtain a receipt for any money given to the landlord.
  • To receive full refund of his/her security deposit within thirty (30) days of vacating the property provided that the premises is left in satisfactory condition as determined by the landlord.
  • To legal protection from unfair conviction.

Tenant Responsibilities

  • For prompt payment of rent.
  • For the proper upkeep of the premises.
  • For giving the landlord adequate notice (as specified in the terms of the lease) before moving out.
  • For notifying the landlord of any repairs that are his responsibility.
  • For adhering to the legal terms of the lease.

Tenant Rights and Remedies

As a tenant you have a right to a safe and sanitary dwelling. Your landlord is obligated, under a doctrine known as implied warranty of habitability, to provide you with a safe and sanitary dwelling in exchange for the rent you pay him/her. A breach of the warranty of implied habitability occurs anytime a defect occurs which renders the premises uninhabitable. Leaky roofs, insect infestation, leaky pipes and toilets, and dangerous floors and steps constitute unsafe and unsanitary defects which would render a dwelling uninhabitable.

Should you find your dwelling uninhabitable, you have three possible remedies:

  • You may vacate the premises.
  • You may withhold rent to force your landlord to make repairs.
  • You may make repairs yourself and deduct the costs of the repairs from your rent.
The use of all of the above-stated remedies are subject to numerous conditions which you, as a tenant, must fulfill.

Withholding - Depending upon the nature of the defect, you may withhold all or a portion of your rent. The amount of rent withheld should equal the reduction in usefulness of the premises to you because of the defect. You need not be exact in calculating the percentage of reduced use. However, your calculations must be made in a reasonable and good faith fashion. You may withhold rent, if you adhere to the following conditions:
  • The defect must be one which causes the premises to be unsafe or unsanitary, i.e., uninhabitable.
  • You must make a written demand upon your landlord to make repairs. Your notice to the landlord should include a description of the defect.
  • After you have given your landlord written notice, you must give the landlord a reasonable amount of time in which to make the repairs. There is no fixed definition of what constitutes a reasonable amount of time. The nature of the defect should, therefore, guide you in determining how long to wait.
  • The landlord must have failed to make the demanded repairs.
Deductions - You may make deductions from your monthly rent payments for the costs of repairs you have made at your expense to make your dwelling habitable. The exercise of this right is subject to the following conditions:
  • Prior to making repairs and deducting the costs from your rent, you must give your landlord written notice of your intention to do same. This notice must provide the landlord with a description of the defect and must advise the landlord of your intention to make the repairs yourself and deduct them from your rent, if he/she does not make repairs within a reasonable time.
  • The landlord must have failed to make the requested repairs.
  • You must have expended monies for repairs. Get receipts and keep them.
  • The costs of repairs must be reasonable. In no event can the costs of repairs exceed the total amount of the rent due for the term of the lease.
Constructive Eviction - If your dwelling is uninhabitable, you may treat the lease as having been breached by your landlord and vacate the premises. It is worth noting again that an uninhabitable dwelling is considered to be one which is either unsafe or unsanitary, or both. If this remedy is considered, it would be prudent to provide the landlord with written notice and an opportunity to correct any defect.

Landlord breach of the implied warranty of habitability is a defense against a landlord suit brought because you have exercised your remedies. However, if you are sued by your landlord, the burden of proof falls on you to prove that the premises are uninhabitable. You must also show the court that you have complied with the requisite conditions for exercise of your selected remedy. If you meet your burden of proof, the court will enter no judgement against you. It is, therefore, important to keep copies of all written documents.

If your landlord sues you, you may bring a counterclaim against him/her under limited circumstances. This ordinarily occurs when a tenant has made repairs but has not withheld or deducted the costs of such repairs. The source of the damages to pay a counterclaim judgement would come from the past rents you have paid the landlord.

You should also know that the court can require you to deposit any withheld rent in an escrow account.