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Ely
Ely, Counselor at Law
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 99981
Experience:  Attorney
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I was a tenant 1/2 years. I only recieved 1 lease agreement

Customer Question

I was a tenant for 7 1/2 years. I only recieved 1 lease agreement (the first year). I also paid my first years rent in full up front. All utilities were checked including sewer. The electric, gas, and water are all in my name. The sewer was not and the landlord has been paying it and never asked me for payment. Now that I gave notice (30 days) because it reverted to month to month and they want over $3000K in sewer charges. Is this allowed?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer. Please note:
(A) This is general information and is not legal advice. No specific course of action is proposed herein. No attorney-client relationship or privilege is formed by speaking to an expert on this site. This is repeated in numerous disclaimers throughout the site. By continuing, you confirm that you understand and agree to these terms; and (B) there may be a slight delay between your follow ups and my reply while I am typing out my answer.
I am sorry to hear about this. Can you please tell me what state this is in?
This is not an answer, but an Information Request. I need this information to answer your question. Please reply, so I can answer your question. Thank you in advance.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
NJ
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
Thank you.
Now that I gave notice (30 days) because it reverted to month to month and they want over $3000K in sewer charges. Is this allowed?
Yes and no.
Why?
1) The sewer was responsibility of tenant. This is clear. The lease stated so. Even if the landlord was paying it prior to, there is no "grandfather clause" that states that if they assumed responsibility, that they do so for the whole lease even if they did not have to. In other words, at any time they could have simply said "hey, aren't you supposed to be paying the sewer? Here you go..."
2) Once the lease went to month to month, all the lease's conditions/terms migrated to this month to month lease. So the same applies.
3) However, one may have a defense against the landlord demanding prior payments for sewer, partially. NOT going forward, but, simply for what they are demanding for back-pay. It is:
(a) If they sue you civilly for unjust enrichment, then the statute of limitations for it is SIX YEARS. Jacobson v. Celgene Corp., 2010 WL(###) ###-#### ***** *3 (D.N.J. Apr. 14, 2010)). This blunts some of the cost.
(b) If they make this a breach of contract claim, the also 6 years of statute of limitations apply. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:14-1 (2011)
(In other words, they cannot reach back further.)
(c) If they try to evict, one can possibly - possibly - have a defense of ESTOPPEL. Promissory estoppel is made up of four elements: (1) a clear and definite promise; (2) made with the expectation that the promisee will rely on it; (3) reasonable reliance; and (4) definite and substantial detriment. Lobiondo v. O'Callaghan, 357 N.J.Super. 488, 499, 815 A.2d 1013 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 177 N.J. 224, 827 A.2d 291 (2003).
One would have to argue that they began making payments for the sewer and told you that you did not have to. This is a weak argument, because it is overridden by a doctrine called "parol evidence rule" which states that the lease essentially controls regardless, but is a possibility.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
so, if i lived there for 20 years they could present me with a sewer charges for the entire time upon my departure?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Isn't she negligent for not asking for sewer payments? If I knew I would have paid, as I did with my rent and all other utilities
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
BTW, I moved out in March
Expert:  Ely replied 1 year ago.
so, if i lived there for 20 years they could present me with a sewer charges for the entire time upon my departure?
Yes, I am afraid. If you do not pay, they can try to sue. If they do, then the Judge will decide, and I am going to be honest with you and state that unless you can show by CLEAR evidence that they agreed to pay the sewer even if the lease stated you should, the Judge is likely to hold you liable. There is that slight possibility of the estoppel defense working, but I do not know how effective it would really be.
Isn't she negligent for not asking for sewer payments? If I knew I would have paid, as I did with my rent and all other utilities
I am afraid not. The landlord has no duty to "remind" of payments. The onus is on the tenant - the payee - to know when a bill is due and pay it, unless the contract states differently.
BTW, I moved out in March
Thank you. But my answer remain the same even with this.
Thank you again for not shooting the messenger in advance.
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