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Alvarado v. Piemontese

A-4812-05T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2007) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; HABITABILITY — A residential tenant is entitled to an abatement of rent if the conditions in the leased premises do not satisfy minimum standards of habitability, and is also entitled to the return of his or her security deposit should the tenant be free of fault for the uninhabitable conditions.

A tenant and landlord entered into a residential lease for a one year term in which the tenant would pay rent and a security deposit. When the tenant moved into the apartment a few days before the lease began, she heard an animal in the ceiling. She notified the landlord the next day that the conditions were not livable, and that she wanted out of the lease and was leaving. The landlord didn’t return the security deposit because of damage the landlord claimed was caused by the tenant during her brief stay. The tenant then filed suit demanding return of the entire security deposit and of the first month’s rent. The landlord answered and counterclaimed, seeking rent for the balance of the lease and repair costs.

The lower court rendered judgment in favor of the tenant, concluding that the tenant faced deplorable conditions and was justified in leaving. It found that the security deposit was demanded and was not produced in violation of the Security Deposit Act. Therefore, the tenant was awarded twice the amount of the security deposit and half of the first month’s rent. The landlord appealed this judgment.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court ruling. The Court concluded that the lower court had examined all the evidence and resolved the factual disputes in the tenant’s favor. It also held that the landlord had failed to demonstrate reversible error in those findings, including the lower court’s conclusion that the landlord’s failure to return the security deposit violated statutory law. The Court also concluded that the lower court was correct that a tenant is entitled to an abatement of rent if the conditions in the premises do not satisfy minimum standards of habitability, and as such implicitly rejected the landlord’s counterclaim for rent for the remainder of the lease. Similarly, because the lower court concluded that the security deposit should have been returned in full, the Appellate Division found that it would have been impossible for the lower court to have also found that the tenant damaged the apartment and so was right to reject the landlord’s claim for reimbursement due to any damage.


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