Know Your Rights for Safe, Healthy Housing!
The Morristown United for Healthy Living Coalition is focused on housing, the built environment, and financial inequity in our community. One of the key strategies for addressing these issues is to ensure that community members know their rights related to housing and have the resources to take action if those rights are violated.
The first step in this process involves educating ourselves as a Coalition about the protections afforded by NJ and US law and what resources exist for taking action – especially on a limited budget. For many of us, housing law is uncharted territory, so we started reaching out to new partners and attending events like the Under One Roof Conference (Housing and Community Development Network of NJ) and train-the-trainer sessions led by New Jersey Citizen Action.
The next step is translating, compiling, and disseminating that knowledge in a way that is accessible and directly related to community needs. So far, we’ve held a Good Neighbor Education Workshop (led by Family Promise of Morris County) and a Tenant Rights Training (led by Legal Services of Northwest Jersey in partnership with Morristown Neighborhood House and the Housing Partnership). Our evaluation shows that these events are valuable, with 89% of people reporting that they gained relevant knowledge from the training and an average rating of 4.86 out of 5 for the “usefulness” of the information presented.
Some key learnings specific to New Jersey that are worth sharing include:
- Renters can’t be evicted just because their lease is ending
- “Self Help” measures taken by landlords (like changing the locks and turning off utilities) aren’t only illegal, they are a criminal offense
- Tenants have the right to withhold rent for any conditions that make the residence “uninhabitable,” like not having running water or a working toilet or stove (just make sure to save that withheld rent, don’t spend it!)
- Housing discrimination based on national origin or family status (whether or not you have children) is illegal
- Residents of HUD-assisted public housing have the right to organize without obstruction, harassment, or retaliation from property owners or management
- Landlords must return security deposits within 30 days after a tenant moves, or within five days in case of fire, flood, condemnation, or evacuation
- Evictions for non-payment of rent can only be done through Landlord-Tenant Court and tenants have 30 days to pay overdue rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction
We hope you learned something! Go out and spread the word in your community!
More resources are available on our website
To join us in this effort, contact firstname.lastname@example.org