Parlin, NJ asked in Landlord - Tenant for New Jersey

Q: How can I be sued for “back rent” when basement apt. was illegal, there was no lease, and I paid cash without receipts?

I received a “small claims court letter” that I’m being sued for $1800 back rent. Whether or not this is true, how is that possible with no lease or documentation?

Also, I guess the ex landlord couldn’t find where I live & sent letter to a family members house. I didn’t receive the letter for a month after it was delivered. Can I pretend I never received it?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Morris Leo Greb
Morris Leo Greb
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Rockaway, NJ
  • Licensed in New Jersey

A: The real issue is not whether you can sued. Anybody can file a complaint. It is up to you to vigorously defend the law suit suit in court. So be sure to attend the court hearing on the date specified in the summons you received from the Court. Some defenses to the suit is whether the purported Landlord registered the apartment with the municipality. So check this out in town hall. Also, was a certificate of habitability obtained from the town and a copy given you before you occupied the premises. If the Landlord failed to do so, he is subject to serious penalties. The municipality checks to see if there are working smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and a working fire extinguisher. If the Landlord hasn't done this, be sure to tell the Judge when you go to court. Also, did you pay a security deposit. The LL can not take more than one and half months rent in advance and open a tenant security interest bearing account at a local bank and provide you with a copy of the deposit information.

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