Mike McNeil writes that the “Series should serve as a wake-up call to our elected officials. Residents like Shanica James, featured in the article “Mold plagues renters who have nowhere to turn,” are finding themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place because finding an affordable place to live in New Jersey is like finding a needle in a haystack. Moving simply isn’t an option when the security deposit you scraped together is being withheld. Why should the renter be punished because the landlord won’t maintain the property?”
The “Renter Hell” series exposes the hardship and health issues that black mold can cause for low income renters who find it in their apartments. When renters withhold rent from their landlords for serious issues such as mold, they often face eviction and losing their security deposit.
For many low-income renter households in New Jersey, losing that security deposit is enough to force families into homelessness. But some New Jersey legislators are trying to strengthen laws that would protect tenants.
“A series of bills that provide tenants with the right to a safe, decent home is before the state Legislature. One bill in particular would strengthen James’ right to a habitable home by facilitating her right to raise habitability violations in eviction and other judicial proceedings. It would also ensure that judges hearing such cases can both order and obtain appropriate inspections whenever tenants raise health and safety claims.”
State Sen. Robert W. Singer, R-Ocean and state Senator Thomas H. Kean, Jr. R-Morris have introduced the “Mold Safe Housing Act” which would allow tenants living in mold-contaminated rental housing to request that their landlord have the mold effectively removed, or relocate them to safer rental housing at the landlord’s expense.
A separate bill, A-1433, would require the state Department of Community Affairs to establish procedures for inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities, and certification programs for mold inspectors and mold hazard abatement workers.
McNeil concludes in his letter “Substandard homes like those in “Renter Hell” are a detriment to the health of our communities. New Jerseyans deserve better. Legislators must act now to secure tenants’ rights and promote healthy homes and communities.”