This page outlines the rules that will apply after the current state of emergency is lifted.
A landlord may bring a proceeding in court when you have not paid the rent. This is known as
a non-payment proceeding. The phrase “Non-payment” should appear on the papers informing you that you have to go to court.
There are several defenses to a non-payment proceeding. These include:
The law requires the landlord to ask for the rent arrears before he can bring a non-payment proceeding. The landlord can personally ask you for the rent or he can serve you with a written notice at least 3 days before bringing the proceeding against you.
A written demand must be served in the same manner as the court papers. That means there are three ways to serve it:
A bill for the rent is NOT a proper demand. The demand must include a good faith estimate of the amount of the rent due for the months in which the rent is due and must “demand” the rent.
The landlord must prove that a proper demand was made. If a proper demand for the rent was not made, you should tell the judge.
When you rented your apartment, the law requires that your landlord promise that it is not dangerous to life, health and safety and is fit for human habitation. If the apartment was not in good condition when you rented it or bad conditions occurred while you lived there, the landlord has “breached the warranty of habitability”.
This defense is not available if you or your family caused the condition.
However, a breach of warranty of habitability can exist even if it is caused by a person other than your landlord, such as another tenant or by an “act of God” eg. a bad rainstorm.
If the landlord has breached the warranty of habitability, he may not be entitled to the full rent. The amount of rent your landlord will be entitled to depends upon how bad the conditions in the apartment are.
There are several things you must prove to be successful when using this defense:
It would help your case if you brought to court pictures of the bad conditions and reports from governmental agencies, such as a local building department or the Health Department.
Remember to have these reports certified by the governmental agency that prepared them.
If you can get the person who inspected your apartment to come to testify in court, that also will be helpful.
If you are successful, the court will grant you a reduction in your rent. It calculates the reduction by determining the value of your premises if it was in good condition and then determining how much the premises is worth in its bad condition. The court will then subtract the two numbers. For each month the court finds the conditions existed, your rent will be reduced by the difference between the two rents. For example, if your rent is $500 a month but the court finds that the premises in a bad condition is only worth $400, you will have your rent reduced by $100 for each month the condition existed.
No. Because our lawmakers believed that each unit rented should be in good condition, the defense of breach of warranty of habitability can never be given up by the tenant. Therefore, even if you knew of the bad conditions when you moved in, you can still use the defense.
A constructive eviction occurs when the landlord interferes with the tenant’s possession of the premises so that the tenant cannot use all or part of it. For example, a constructive eviction exists if a ceiling in your unit is leaking so bad that you cannot use that room.
As in the case of breach of the warranty of habitability, the court will grant you a reduction in your rent. It will determine the value of your unit in good condition and the value of your unit without the use of certain parts. Then it will give you a reduction of rent based on the difference between the two.
When the landlord claims that the rent was raised and you never agreed to the increase in rent, you can use this defense. However, if you paid the increase, even for one month, that is strong proof that you, in fact, did consent to the increase, and you probably will not be successful with this defense.
In a landlord-tenant case, your landlord is only entitled to a judgment for those items that really are rent. Under certain circumstances, your landlord will NOT be entitled to late and legal fees.
It is important that you read your lease to determine if you have this defense
A partial actual eviction occurs when the landlord puts a lock on a room that is part of the rental, or uses it to store landlord’s property or moves someone else in. Here, the obligation to pay rent is totally suspended.
All of our offices are now open to the public and accepting walk-ins.