My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: NJ
I rented a small townhouse for 5 years. The landlord leased multiple units in the same development.
I gave the required notice prior to moving out and here is what happened:
1. I recieved an eviction notice AFTER I moved out. I had to show up at court to address it and of course the Landlord did not so it was dismissed.
2. The landlord is suing me for almost 15k for replacement of carpet in the entire house and repainting the entire house. The carpet was 16 years old when I moved in (the original builders grade carpet) and showed the wear and tear but was liveable. The house was painted 2 years prior to me moving in but looked like it was done by a non-professional, i.e. ceilings and corners not "cut" in, trim was not done, paint was really cheap.
I have 2 dogs and a cat that the landlord was clearly made aware of and for the entire time did not say a word about them and they were not prohibited in the lease. They are well taken care of and were confined to the kitchen area when I was not at home.
I had repainted the entire lower floor as well as the upper hallway. I repainted all of the trim. This was done approximately 16 months before I moved out. The landlord gave me a verbal OK to do this and had seen the completed job on at least 4 occaisions prior to me moving out.
Prior to moving out, I put a fresh coat of paint on the entire lower floor and upper hallway. Re-painted the trim to freshen it up. Had the entire house professionally cleaned. Had the carpets cleaned and bio-deoderized to ensure that there were no "pet" issues, replaced the kitchen floor as I had damaged the linoleum. I put down tile, replaced the kitchen base moulding and cabinet coving etc. I also purchased and installed new mini blindes for the entire house because the ones there during the rental period were getting old and dusty looking.
I essence, I tried to leave the place in as good or better shape that when I moved in. When I moved in, I did not anticipate spending that many years there as I was in a personal transition and thought I would be there a year or 2 at the most.
During my stay, I kept the place clean, performed the normal routing maintenance (furnace filters, minor repairs etc.) and did not ask much of the landlord. He always seemed happy with the condition of the place when he came by and never once mentioned anything negative.
I requested a move out walkthrough but the landlord was never available so I provided my forwarding address and the last time I spoke with him asked him to call me with any questions or concerns.
I never heard from him again and received the lawsuit and eviction notice within a week of moving out. The lawsuit stated the claim for unpaid rent for about $3500 (I did not pay the last months rent when I received the lawsuit and eviction) but did not provide any additional details only saying that the carpet and paint were damaged beyond normal wear and tear. I also received a certified letter about 35 days after moving saying that they were retaining my security deposit for rent and damages beyond wear and tear, but with no specifics about what the damages were.
I went to court and represented myself pro-se and when I got there, their attoreney presented me with a revised estimate for almost 15K, saying I should have asked for the specifics myself and that they were under no obligation to provide them to me.
I had the case adjourned and hired and attorney so I should be OK on that front, but when I questioned my attorney as to whether or not I am liable for anything given the circumstances, he keeps telling me that we need to present our evidence and rely on the system.
My ultimate question is, how can I be liable for replacing the carpet for the entire unit and also repainting the entire unit? Especially given that the carpet was 15-16 years old when I moved in and 21 years old when I moved out. The paint was 7 years old when I moved out. How is the value of items this old determined in the state of NJ.
Arrgh! what a mess...