Can I Kick Out My Annoying Roommate?

Living with a roommate or roommates is a great way to bring down your monthly costs. This living arrangement is especially great for young people starting out on their own before settling down and starting a family. However, jumping into a lease agreement with someone is a serious undertaking, especially if you don’t know the person(s) very well.

If you sign a lease with a roommate, you will be considered co-tenants. It doesn’t matter if you moved in together or if your roommate was there before or after you – if you’re both on the lease, you’re both equally legally responsible for everything in the lease agreement.

What happens if you move in with someone only to discover that your personalities really clash? Perhaps your new live-in mate is horribly late with paying you their fair share of the utilities. Or maybe they’re a night owl and watch (loud) late-night tv shows while you’re trying to sleep.

Whatever differences may arise between you and your roommate, know this: it is exceptionally hard to kick a true co-tenant out. Even if your roommate simply stops paying their portion of the rent, your landlord is likely to demand the full amount anyway. Typically, landlords care very little about in-fighting amongst their tenants as long as the rent is paid in full each month.

Beware: if you stop paying your landlord the full rent payment (because your roommate has shorted you) – you can suffer the same consequences that will be doled out to the non-paying roommate. When one roommate breaks the lease agreement, it affects all of the co-tenants equally.

The only situation that calls for immediate eviction is if your roommate becomes violent toward you. Even the mere threat of violence can be cause for a restraining order. If you are granted a restraining order against your roommate, they’ll be forced to move out post haste.

In order to avoid such roommate conflicts, it’s a good idea to take a page from The Big Bang Theory and rustle up a ‘Roommate Agreement.’ While you most certainly don’t have to get as serious as Sheldon Cooper does (for example: he demands that his roommates stand a certain distance away from the bathroom mirror when brushing their teeth in order to keep the mirror clean) – things like noise limitations, quiet hours, cleaning the apartment, and rent payments can make your life a lot more enjoyable.

You can actually create a legally binding roommate agreement that would give you some power if a roommate stops paying their portion of the rent. You’d have to take them to small claims court, but it may be worth it if your living situation has become unbearable. While a small claims judge doesn’t have the power to evict your roommate, s/he can order full payment of the rent that you’re owed.

And, even if your roommate doesn’t comply with the Court Order, taking them to court may be just enough to make them want to move out on their own.

Can I be Evicted Due to my Roommate’s Poor Credit?

Moving in with a roommate can be a great way to split expenses – both rent and utilities. It can also be an extremely fun time in your life as you venture out on your own and begin to explore the world as an adult.

Naturally, deciding to live with someone, whether in your early 20s or later in life, is a big decision and one that must be taken seriously. It’s in your best interest to make sure that the person you choose to live with is trustworthy and easy to get along with. Failure to take the time to find a roommate who meets these criteria can lead to a very miserable living situation.

However, the single most important trait to look for in a potential roommate is financially responsibility. The following “red flags” indicate a deficiency in the money department and should give you significant pause in selecting your cohabitant:

  • Poor credit score (under 620)
  • History of being evicted for non-payment of rent or utilities
  • Frequent moves from one rental to another – This indicates that they may be more likely to break the lease they sign with you.
  • Tells “horror” stories about all past roommates – The whole “it’s not me, it’s them” scenario – if it keeps repeating itself in someone’s life, this is probably not a person you want to live with.
  • Poor references – Ask potential roommates if you can get in touch with someone they used to live with. Today, this can be as simple as a Facebook introduction and a five minute online chat. Look for answers about paying rent, utilities and security deposits as well as paying for any damages that occurred during the length of their lease.
  • Doesn’t hold a steady job or is only employed part-time – Make sure that they pull in more than enough income to pay their portion of the monthly bills.
  • Inability to put down a deposit

If you plan to apply for a joint lease once you find the right roommate, the property owner (landlord) will almost certainly check both of your credit scores. Even if you have a sparkling credit history and a high score, a landlord can decide not to rent to you if your roommate has dings on their credit report.

Typically, landlords won’t turn away potential renters who only have a few dings in their credit history, but if your roommate is saddled with a significant amount of debt, their credit score has likely suffered because of it.

Perhaps you already have an apartment rental and you want to take on a roommate without adding their name to the lease. Depending on the language of your specific lease agreement, you may be required to add any official occupants’ names to the lease. If this is the case, your new roommate’s credit score can prevent them from joining you in your rental.

Knowing that your possible bunkmate has a dubious financial history, you may be tempted to lie by omission and have them “move in” without officially telling your landlord. While this may temporarily avoid a credit check, it may end in disaster if your landlord discovers your covert roommate. If this happens, you and your undisclosed roommate will likely be evicted for failure to follow the rules set out in the lease agreement.

If you feel that you have been evicted unjustly, you should make yourself aware of your rights as a New Jersey tenant.

 

Image: “Moving Day Boxes” by Nicolas Huk – licensed under CC by 2.0

Evicted with No Lease in NJ: Will it Damage My Credit?

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If you’re a renter in New Jersey, you may have signed a long and detailed lease with your landlord. Rental leases are used to set out specific terms that must be adhered to by the tenant(s) as well as the landlord (property owner). Signing a lease can give renters the security of a guaranteed place to live for a specified length of time. A lease also stipulates the amount of monthly rent to be paid to the property owner throughout the duration of the contract.

Can I move in with my friend without signing his lease?

Oftentimes, a rental lease specifies whether or not the tenant may take on a roommate during their stay in the rental property. Some leases require that any new roommates sign their name to the lease; however it is more commonly found that tenants can obtain a roommate without having them sign anything.

If you are a roommate who has been living in a rental without having signed any lease paperwork, you may have questions about your rights. Since the original tenant signed the lease, he or she has a clear understanding of their renter’s rights. Although you don’t have the benefit of a written lease, since you are renting in New Jersey, you have what is known as a verbal lease.

Non-leased renters in NJ who are staying in a rental unit with the permission of the property owner are granted an automatic 30-day verbal lease. The oral agreement you and the original tenant formulate with your landlord constitute the contents of your verbal lease. Naturally, verbal leases are much more difficult to uphold, and tend to be quite problematic.

It is recommended that you get some kind of written agreement from your landlord so that you don’t end up in court over what may very well be an inconsequential issue. Landlord/tenant disputes can turn into bitter court battles, and without anything in writing, you’ll have a much harder time defending yourself and your position as a non-leased renter.

Can a landlord evict a tenant who doesn’t have a written lease?

Property owners can definitely evict tenants without a written lease in place, but the process is a lot messier for all parties involved. Whether you moved in with a leased renter or if you were simply granted verbal permission to stay in a property with no lease, you are not safe from eviction.

There are a myriad of reasons that justify evicting a renter of any kind, including:

  • Violation of health, safety or conduct laws
  • Damaged property
  • Missed or habitually late rent payment(s)
  • Illegal activity (drug use, assault) in the rental property
  • Theft or destruction of landlord’s property
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Decision of property owner to stop renting

Even if you did not sign a written lease, you can be evicted for any of the above reasons.

Will an eviction damage my credit score?

Generally, being evicted in New Jersey will not be indicated on your credit report. However, unpaid rent or lawsuits that were filed against you by the landlord may show up on your credit history. Additionally, the next time you apply to rent an apartment in NJ or elsewhere, your new landlord or property manager is likely to perform a background screening, during which they may discover that you’ve been evicted before.

Image credit: Angela Rutherford

Can a Commercial Lease Survive a Residential Foreclosure?

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Aside from home-based businesses, there are many companies (typically small businesses) that have office(s) located in a residential building. The residential property in question may be a single family home, condominium, apartment, or townhome whose owner is paying a mortgage loan and renting the property out to the business owner.

A question arises if and when the residential property in question enters foreclosure. What is to become of the commercial lease and the company owner who is running a business at the location?

Can a business be evicted due to a residential foreclosure?

Unfortunately, commercial leases differ quite dramatically in comparison with residential leases. The most significant difference is that there are far fewer consumer protection laws in place to protect commercial lessees compared to residential lessees.

A company doing business in a residential building (that is, of course, zoned for permission to operate a business) will have entered into a commercial lease with the building’s owner, who then effectively becomes the company’s landlord. If the landlord falls behind on paying the mortgage and the property is foreclosed upon, what will happen to the business owner and his employees who work in the building? Will they be evicted or do they have the right to stay on after the foreclosure sale with the bank essentially becoming their new landlord?

There are two distinct possibilities that can result in eviction of the business owner:

  1. If the commercial lessee (tenant/business owner) was made aware of (and a party to) the impending foreclosure, and the lease was created before the property owner defaulted on the mortgage, the lender has the right to evict the commercial tenants, but they must obtain a court order to do so.
  2. Any lease that originated after the property owner had already defaulted on the mortgage becomes null and void on the official foreclosure date. No court order is necessary for eviction of the commercial lessees.

Because of the above two scenarios, commercial tenants must advocate for themselves when they are signing a lease. Specifically, commercial renters should scrutinize something called the SNDA (Subordination, Non-disturbance and Attornment) provisions that exist within nearly every commercial lease.

How can SNDA provisions save me from having to uproot my business?

Subordination, non-disturbance and attornment provisions are included in commercial leases specifically to protect commercial renters in the event of a foreclosure on the property. Unfortunately, many commercial tenants have a tendency to “skim” the SNDA sections of their rental agreement due to their excessive length and confusing legal jargon.

Despite the investment of time, commercial tenants should always certify that their lease agreement contains favorable SNDA provisions – specifically the Non-disturbance Provision. Although negotiating a Non-disturbance agreement that both parties agree with can take several months, in the end it will leave the renter protected against eviction in the event of default by the landlord on the mortgage.

If you are a business owner renting a commercial space in a residential building that’s in foreclosure, find out what rights you have by consulting with a real estate attorney in New Jersey. Conversely, business owners just beginning the process of locating rental space should do the same to ensure that your business location will be safe in the event of foreclosure.

If you want to learn more about commercial leases in relation to residential foreclosures, call Veitengruber Law for your free consultation meeting with one of our experienced real estate and foreclosure attorneys. We now have offices in Wall, Bordentown and Marlton, NJ. Visit our website to learn more about how we can help you.

Image credit: Dan Nguyen

My Landlord’s in Foreclosure – Can I Buy the Home?

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As we’ve previously discussed, New Jersey renters have significant rights if and when their landlord falls behind on making the mortgage payment and ends up in foreclosure. There are strict rules in place to prevent landlords from illegally evicting tenants in situations where the property has been sold at foreclosure auction and the new owners wish to live in the home.

Landlords are legally bound to give their tenants at least 90 days’ notice if the property will be changing ownership and the buyer doesn’t wish to rent the home out to tenants. This 90 days rule will be extended if the renters have a lease that goes beyond the 90 day timeline.

As a renter in this situation, you may very well decide to simply find a different place to live. That is certainly a viable option that works for many people. Additionally, it’s possible that the home’s new owners bought the property fully intending to continue renting it out. In that case, you can continue living in the home – the only change being who you pay each month for rent.

A slightly more difficult resolution to the problem of a landlord in foreclosure involves you (the renter) making an offer to purchase the home. If you discover that the home you’re living in will be sold at foreclosure auction (NJ Sheriff’s Sale), you may actually be able to buy the home yourself.

If you are financially stable with a good credit score, and owning your own home is something you desire, connect with a local NJ attorney who has experience in the foreclosure arena. He will be able to walk you through what you’ll need to do in order to purchase the home.

It is important to keep in mind that the mortgage company or lender has foreclosed on the current owner (your landlord) because the mortgage is currently in default. To be approved to essentially take over the property title, you’ll have to bring the default amount current, which means you’ll need to pay the money that your landlord failed to pay.

The mortgage company’s main goal is to recover as much money as possible, and if you offer them a satisfactory purchase price – this option is a real possibility. It’s not a slam-dunk, and it will require some negotiation between your real estate attorney and the lender, which may take some time; however, if there is a Sheriff’s Sale scheduled, your attorney may be able to have the sale postponed so that your sale can proceed.

This type of transaction often qualifies as a Short Sale, because you likely won’t have to pay the full value of the home. The only other alternative for the lender to recover any money on the home is to sell it at foreclosure sale, which would bring in a much lower dollar amount. However, you must realize that if you really want to own the home, you shouldn’t low-ball the lender, and be open to negotiating if the lender doesn’t approve your first offer.

It is important to work with a New Jersey real estate attorney on matters like this. To go it alone would mean probable failure. For more information on complex real estate transactions in New Jersey, continue reading here.

Image credit: Mark Moz

Breaking a Rental Lease: Renter’s Rights

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Signing a rental lease means that you and your landlord have committed to following the terms laid out in the agreement for a specified amount of time. The typical length of a rental lease is one year, but leases can be formulated for many different lengths of time. They can range from a month-to-month lease to a five year rental lease agreement in special circumstances.

Rental leases provide both landlords and their tenants with some security during the rental time period. The property owner (landlord) has peace of mind that he’ll have a steady income for the duration of the lease. As the renter, your lease agreement spells out what is expected of you as a tenant. You’ll have some rules to follow, and your landlord will be expected to provide you with certain services throughout the lease period.

As helpful as lease agreements can be, they can be a hindrance if the renter needs to break the lease early. Sometimes, life events create a need to move suddenly. Some of these events include:

  • Job loss
  • Job relocation
  • Divorce
  • Getting married
  • Expanding family
  • Inheritance

Unfortunately, in most cases, if you break your lease for one of the above-mentioned reasons, you may be required to pay for the remainder of your rental term. It is always possible that you have stumbled upon a generous landlord though, so it never hurts to ask if s/he would consider letting you out of your lease. Be sure to explain your situation in full detail so your landlord truly understands that you need to break the lease, rather than simply wanting to break it.

What are my rights as a renter in New Jersey if I need to break my lease?

Just as your landlord cannot kick you out of your rental without significant reason(s), the lease is in place so that you can’t simply leave your landlord high and dry if the mood simply strikes you.

With that being said, however, you do have rights as a tenant in New Jersey that allow you to break a lease. If you have experienced any of the following, you may be able to exit your lease agreement early, without owing rent for the entire term of the lease:

  • Active military duty
  • Disabling illness
  • Domestic violence (experienced by you or your child)
  • Unsafe living conditions at the fault of your landlord
  • Harassment by your landlord

No matter what your reason(s) for breaking a lease early, it’s never a good idea to skip town with your fingers crossed tightly that your landlord will just find a new tenant and you’ll be off the hook.

Talk to your landlord directly about your need and reason for moving earlier than expected. Make sure you give your landlord sufficient notice so that s/he hopefully can find a replacement tenant. This will be a win/win for everyone involved. Be sure to put it in writing as well, and make your letter as nice and sincere as possible.

For more information about breaking a lease in NJ, or if you’re experiencing trouble getting out of a lease, call Veitengruber Law and we will consult with you for free. If you are legally within your rights to break your lease early, we can help ensure that you’ll be able to do just that.

Image credit: Brett Neilson

Renters’ Insurance: Do You Really Need It?

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According to Zillow, more than $440 billion was shelled out for rent payments in the United States in 2014. That figure is concurrent with the fact that the number of homeowners is steadily declining while the number of renters is consistently climbing. In fact, in the 10 year time period between 2004 – 2014, this country has seen its peak number of renters since the 1980s (NYT.com).

Given the huge number of Americans who are currently living in a rental (whether an apartment, duplex or single family home), the concept of renters’ insurance has automatically jumped into the hot-seat.

Historically, too many renters made assumptions about the protection of their belongings that ended up costing them large sums of money. For example, a common belief is that renters will be protected under their landlord’s property insurance policies.

Unfortunately that is a misconception that is all too often not clarified when the lease is signed. Typical homeowners’ insurance policies specifically state that any property belonging to a tenant will not be covered in the event of a fire, flood, or other natural disaster.

Additionally, should you or any of your guests be the cause of an accident in your rental that causes harm or injury – your landlord’s liability policy will not have you covered. This could end very badly with you being sued for damages, which could end up costing thousands of dollars.

Although some landlords require their renters to have their own renter’s insurance policy before signing the lease, not all landlords follow this practice. This means the decision is left up to the renter in many cases. Plenty of renters, when faced with the rising cost of rent coupled with the rest of their monthly bills, decide against renters’ insurance.

This is a very bad decision, for many reasons.

  1. Renters’ insurance is very affordable. It is a falsehood believed by many that renters’ insurance is expensive. Naturally, everyone’s policy and costs will vary, but on average you’ll pay a few hundred bucks per year – and that gets you half a million dollars in coverage!
  2. Medical bills can be astronomical. If one of your friends gets injured in your apartment and requires medical attention, s/he can sue you for the costs they incur. Your landlord’s policy will not help you out here, either.
  3. Your landlord may not have a security system in place, and they aren’t required too, either. This may mean that you’re at risk for break-ins and theft. Burglaries are common in big apartment complexes due to the large number of people and high activity that can act as a distraction. If you lose any expensive items to theft or vandalism, renters’ insurance will help you recover the cost.
  4. Natural disasters can destroy all of your property. While your landlord’s insurance policy will take care of the cost of repairing the structure of the building, your personal items inside your apartment will only be protected under renters’ insurance coverage.
  5. Accidents happen. Think about it: have you ever accidentally broken a window or left the bathtub water running too long? Any damage to your rental that is deemed to be your “fault” will be your responsibility.

When you consider the benefits of paying around $20/month, renters’ insurance is a no-brainer! Don’t pass on it just to save a few dollars. If you have an extremely tight budget, look for something less important that you can drop. Consider lowering your cable subscription, getting rid of your landline (as long as you have dependable cell service), cancelling satellite radio, or eating out less often. If you end up in one of the above situations, you’ll be extremely glad you decided to go for the renters’ policy.

 

Image credit: Scott Wylie

What are a Renter’s Rights During a Foreclosure?

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Without a doubt, foreclosure can be a devastating event for homeowners. What’s less commonly discussed, however, are the effects a foreclosure can have on renters.

What, you may ask, does foreclosure have to do with renting? Only homeowners can be foreclosed upon, right? Generally speaking, it is true that foreclosures take place when a mortgagee fails to make his or her loan payments. The bank or lender then steps in to essentially take possession of the home, and the homeowner loses ownership of the property due to non-payment.

That being said, it is definitely possible for a renter to be affected by a foreclosure if they are renting a home or part of a home that goes into foreclosure. The homeowner may still reside in the home along with the renter(s), or the property may be solely inhabited by the renter(s) at the time of foreclosure. For whatever reason, if the owner of the home stops making mortgage payments and the home becomes foreclosed, the renters will be evicted.

Sometimes, whether out of fear, embarrassment, negligence or a combination of all three – a foreclosed homeowner fails to alert the renter(s) to the fact that they will soon be without a place to live. When the foreclosure occurs, tenants will be evicted right along with any homeowners who are living in the home. Unfortunately, if the tenants were not alerted to the upcoming foreclosure, they may find themselves unexpectedly homeless with no warning.

When this happens, the affected tenants do have rights. It is important that renters who find themselves out on the streets due to the homeowner’s failure to inform know that they can take action. If you have been evicted from your rental with no prior warning from your landlord (the mortgage holder) – the first thing you must do is secure all of your belongings that are in the home. If you are only granted access to the property by appointment, do your best to gather friends and family to help you at the allotted time(s) so that you do not lose your belongings along with your place of residence.

As soon as you have recovered all of your personal property that was inside the home, secure a place to stay. You may need to rely on the kindness of friends or a family member during this type of situation, however it should only be temporary. When you are settled, contact an attorney in your area who is familiar with foreclosure and real estate matters. Time is of the essence, so the sooner you hire a real estate lawyer, the better.

With the help of the right real estate/foreclosure attorney, you can file a claim against your landlord (the homeowner) and potentially the new owner of the home for illegally evicting you. In doing so, you may be able to recover some or all of the rent that you paid (in the instance that the home was rented illegally). You may also be able to sue for damages you incurred while you were without a place to live, and when you were denied access to your personal belongings.

 

Image credit: Sarah Gilbert

Buying a Home in NJ: Why You Need an Attorney

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Purchasing a home is a huge accomplishment in life, and one that is fraught with a million and one ways to confuse you. Signing a real estate contract is often jokingly referred to as ‘signing your life away.’ That’s because of the mountainous piles of paperwork you’ll have to read through (and preferably understand) before signing on the dotted lines.  Yes, you read that right: lineS. During the closing meeting, wherein the property officially becomes yours, you’ll be prompted to put your John Hancock on a veritable myriad of contract papers.

While it’s true that your real estate agent can often act as an intermediary during the informal phase of negotiations, once your transaction edges closer and closer to being a formal written agreement, there are a number of reasons why working with a real estate attorney is in your best interest.

For example, many realtors use cookie cutter paperwork that doesn’t address any number of legal problems that may pop up. Because of this, issues may arise that end up costing you many thousands of dollars – significantly more than the cost of retaining an attorney to assist you.

During a real estate transaction wherein you are the buyer, your attorney can negotiate for you prior to the existence of a contract. Once you are satisfied with the terms and a contract is drawn up, your real estate lawyer will be able to review all of the contract paperwork to ensure that all of your concerns are met.

Additionally, working with a real estate attorney in New Jersey means that all state laws will be followed during the purchase of your home. One such law exists that many New Jersey home buyers aren’t aware of.

The Attorney Review Clause

This is a 72 hour/three (3) day period of time that starts the day after the real estate contract has been signed by both the seller and the buyer. Weekends are not included in the 72 hour time period. During the Attorney Review, both parties are encouraged to seek out a New Jersey attorney who is experienced in real estate contracts.

The attorneys’ review of the contract must be completed within the three (3) day time frame, HOWEVER, if either party’s attorney notifies the realtor(s) of changes to be made to the contract, the review period is extended until such time as the buyer and the seller can come to an agreement.

If your NJ real estate attorney decides that there are fatal flaws in the contract, you are able to “cancel” or “get out of” the contract, and it thereby becomes null and void. Hence, the Attorney Review period is also referred to as the Escape Clause.

The Title Search

Along with reviewing your real estate contract for flaws and errors during the review period, your attorney and his staff are also equipped to perform a title search on the property that you wish to purchase. Title searches are done in order to prove that there aren’t any liens or judgments against the home you wish to buy. The outcome of the title search is crucial because it ultimately reveals whether the seller really has ownership rights of the property and can legally sell it to you.

A real estate broker can perform a title search for you, but a real estate attorney can accomplish a search much more quickly and more affordably due to working closely with title companies on a regular basis.

If there are any liens or encumbrances on the property in question, your attorney can negotiate with the seller and can even guide him or her in the right legal direction to ensure that all liens are taken care of before proceeding.

For these reasons and more, working with legal counsel during a real estate transaction is just the smart way to go. You may be surprised by how affordable a NJ attorney’s services are when compared with the amount of money you could potentially stand to lose in a real estate transaction that goes awry.

Image credit: Jenni C

Can I Sue My NJ Landlord?

2468996425_fd077296dc_zDisputes between NJ landlords and their tenants are quite common. If your interactions with your landlord have disintegrated, you may be considering moving out or you may have already been evicted. If you feel that either of those outcomes resulted in your landlord wrongfully keeping all or part of your security deposit, you may have a case against him.

It is an unfortunate truth that there are some unscrupulous landlords in New Jersey and elsewhere. Some areas are more well known for landlord corruption than others. If you happen to live in one of those areas, it’s possible that your landlord thinks of your security deposit as part of their “piggy bank”, and that he never intended to return it to you from day one of your relationship with him.

If this seems to be the case, be sure to document all of your interactions with your landlord. If you have already moved out of your NJ rental and your landlord refuses to give you back your security deposit, he may tell you that he had to use your security deposit for repairs. He may even ask you for additional money! If this is the case, be sure to demand receipts for all purchases that your landlord makes in order to perform these so-called “repairs.”

If your landlord does provide you with receipts from contractors who performed “repairs” and/or purchase order receipts for materials (Home Depot, etc.), but you feel that you are not responsible (according to your rental agreement) for the repairs that he is making, your next step is to send him a written notice under the Security Deposit Act. In this notice, you will advise him that you are disputing his billing and/or receipts for the repairs that he is performing on your rental unit. Give your landlord 30 days to respond to the written notice. Many times, landlords will end the charade and give you back your security deposit to avoid going to court.

On the other hand, if your NJ landlord cannot produce receipts and bills in accordance with what he has told you, and he does not make any effort to return the money you are owed, you definitely have a case against him and can sue him for your security deposit.

But how do I sue a landlord?

In New Jersey, landlords have 30 days after you move out to return your security deposit, along with an itemized list of any monies that were withheld. This is only different in the case of flooding, fire, condemnation or eviction, in which cases landlords have only five days to itemize and return your deposit to you. (Nolo.com)

After this time period has passed, and you have either not received your security deposit, or have only received part of it, be aware that in New Jersey, landlords can use security deposits to cover the following costs:

  1. Unpaid rent, utility bills or other financial obligations as per the rental agreement
  2. Damages that were caused by you that go above and beyond ordinary wear and tear
  3. Bringing the rental unit up to the level of cleanliness that existed when you moved in
  4. Fixing any changes that you made to the rental (for example: removing curtain rods that you had installed or other hardware that you left behind)

To ensure that your landlord will not falsify his final inspection, you may wish to ask to attend the inspection. At the very least, make sure you have many good quality photographs or video that gives clear proof of the condition of the rental unit on the day that you move out.

After the appropriate waiting period, if your landlord still refuses to return your deposit or has taken money that you feel is unjustified, the next step is to announce your intentions to your landlord about going to court.

As long as the amount you are owed from your security deposit is less than $5000, you can sue your landlord in Small Claims Court. The fee to sue your landlord is only $50. You can find details about small claims cases, like forms, fees, and whether or not you need an attorney at the NJ state court website.

Image Credit: Jen