We moved into our new apt in horrible condition, spent thousands to fix it but upon moving in on the first we discovered there was a huge leak in the main water pipe that leaked into the neighbors' apt below. We were told we have to pay for the days we were without water (11 days currently - with small children in the home) no accommodations were offered and we spent a fortune on frozen foods and eating out as well as having to find places to bathe. Can the landlord evict us and/or do we have the right to withhold the amount only for the days we went without water? What are our legal rights in this situation?
Where a landlord simply refuses to make needed repairs, tenants often have little choice but to stop paying rent. This is called withholding the rent if it involves one tenant. If some or all of the tenants in one building or complex withhold rent as a group, it is called a rent strike. By withholding rent, tenants put pressure on the landlord to make repairs, and they avoid paying for services they are not receiving. Withholding rent is perfectly legal and often can be the only way to force the landlord to make necessary repairs.
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Most NJ leases state that there is a corresponding duty for tenant to pay rent and for landlord to perform all his/her duties. The exception to this rule is where the defect (in this case no water) makes the space uninhabitable. The New Jersey Supreme Court has reiterated that lack of plumbing affects habitability. Trentacost v. Brussel, 82 N.J. 214, 412 A.2d 436 New Jersey Supreme Court 1980 [not bluebooked]. In addition to these claims you can sue the landlord under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. NJ law says that this act applies to tenancies. See 49 Prospect Street Tenants Ass'n v. Sheva Gardens, Inc., 227 N.J.Super. 449, 547 A.2d 1134
N.J.Superior Court, Appellate Division, 1988.[not bluebooked]. This law gives you the ability to get three times your damages (cost of not having water) and also attorneys fees. You should definitely consult a competent attorney for this situation and at least consult and make sure you have the law in hand if you have to fight your landlord in court. Good Luck!
The above is not meant to be legal advice. I have not reviewed the factual or legal issues that make up your case. The only way I can provide legal advice to you is review your case on a one to one basis. If you do not seek my advice, then I recommend you seek the advice of another attorney who is competent in this area. My writing above does not constitute an agreement to represent you or participate in your case in any manner.