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Knowledge is Power: Tenants Rights

Brought to You by PRAB, Unity Square, New Labor, & Esperanza Neighborhood Project
Tenant's Have Rights!
Illustration by Maria Malyk

Both landlords and tenants (those who rent) have rights and responsibilities when it comes to renting an apartment or home. Follow this guide, brought to you by PRAB, Unity Square, Esperanza Neighborhood Project, and New Labor, to see what to do before, during, and after renting a residence.

Before

  • Obtain a full copy of your lease and read it in its entirety.
  • Take a tour of the residence and check out whether or not it is habitable.
  • When reading the lease, look for the following items:
    • Is this property rent controlled? Most properties in New Brunswick are rent controlled, which means the rent can not increase more than a set amount each year depending on the rate of in ation. This last year, the maximum annual increase was 2.6%.
    • Is there any lead paint on the property?
    • Are you allowed to sublet, and if so, how can you do that?

Most landlords require a security deposit (an amount of money to ensure that you will not damage the property that can not exceed 1.5x of a month’s rent).The land-lord needs to put all of your security deposit in a bank account within 30 days of you signing the lease, and inform you of the bank and account number

During

  • Landlords are required to provide tenants with “safe and habitable” conditions.
  • The landlord is responsible for making sure utilities such as heat, gas, and electric work and that the tenant can use the heat from October to May. It is neither acceptable nor safe for a landlord to insist that a tenant use electric space heaters instead of the central heating system.
  • The landlord is responsible for getting rid of vermin (mice/bugs) unless the tenant is the one who introduced the vermin to the house.
  • If a landlord will not make repairs in a timely manner, you can take any of the following courses of action:
    • Call the City Housing Inspection Office or the Rent Control Board at 732-745-5050. The Inspection Office can fine the landlord for failure to make timely repairs, and, in certain cases, the Rent Control Board can force the landlord to refund to the tenant a portion of the rent they already paid while the issue was unaddressed.
    • Withhold rent until repairs are made
    • Call Unity Square or PRAB for assistance

After

  • Take photos of the empty unit before you leave so you can prove it was clean and well kept.
  • Request the return of your security deposit
    • Landlords need to send you the deposit within 30 days of vacating the unit
    • Landlords can only deduct from the deposit costs for repairs due to damage from the tenant other than normal wear and tear. For example, a landlord cannot deduct money to routinely repaint the unit before the next tenant moves in.
    • If the landlord does deduct money from the security deposit, the landlord needs to provide an itemized list of the damages, and receipts for the exact amounts of the costs deducted.
    • If a landlord illegally withholds all or a portion of your security deposit, you can file a case in small claims court.
  • Regarding eviction: Eviction is a formal, legal process that has to proceed through court and ends when a court issues and eviction order.
    • To be granted an eviction order, a landlord needs an acceptable reason, for example, failure to pay rent, breaking a part of the lease, damaging the unit, or causing a disturbance.
  • A tenant can dispute these reasons in court under the anti-eviction act.
    • Given that a court order is needed to evict a tenant, a landlord cannot simply show up intimidating the tenant and telling him to get out.