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Rutgers Law School hosts seminar on housing law, tenant discrimination

The Rutgers Housing Justice and Tenant Solidarity Clinic, a program at Rutgers Law School that works with lower-income clients facing housing injustice, sponsored an event, along with Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice and Rutgers Institute for Professional Education.  – Photo by

On March 22, Rutgers—Newark hosted a training lecture for law students and professionals to discuss renting law and defending tenants who have faced discrimination from their landlords.

The lecture "Affirmative Action Against Landlords" was held in-person at the Center for Law and Justice on the Newark campus and over Zoom. The event featured speakers from Rutgers Law School and the Seton Hall Center for Social Justice.

Speakers gave advice on handling renting law cases based on their own experiences. Greg Baltz, an assistant professor at Rutgers Law School and co-director of the Housing Justice and Tenant Solidarity Clinic, discussed how a lawyer should converse with a client regarding discrimination.

"I'm never gonna say to somebody 'you're not being discriminated against,'" Baltz said. "Because the reality of the conditions that tenants are living in … has everything to do with race."

Other topics included the basics of renting law, writing demand letters on behalf of tenants and discrimination based on race, gender, income source or other details necessary to a tenant's ability to lawfully rent a space.

Kevin Kelly, an associate clinical professor at the Seton Hall Law Center for Social Justice, detailed the process of a class action case and his experiences defending them.

Kelly described cases in which tenants faced sudden rent increases, lease terminations without notification and belongings being removed and sent to a warehouse without consent.

In another case, Baltz said he defended tenants who were removed from their homes by the city government due to a lack of basic utilities, in lieu of holding the property owner responsible for removing those utilities in the first place.

Baltz said attendees should make use of New Jersey's one-party consent laws on phone call recordings when dealing with an abusive landlord, as they might make unreasonable requests or statements that would otherwise go undocumented.

Baltz also explained the penalties a renting law case could seek against an abusive landlord, including punitive damages and increased fines due to repeated abuse and renter receivership.

Receivership is where a landlord is forbidden from entering the property and is replaced with a court-appointed receiver who will collect rent, handle property maintenance and enforce evictions on the landlord's behalf.

Victor Monterrosa, managing director at the Housing Justice and Tenants Solidarity Clinic at Rutgers Law School, discussed strategies for building a renting law case at the event.

Monterossa said there are several resources when gathering evidence, for example, determining if a property is rent-controlled.

Students and practitioners were offered credit for attendance through New Jersey's Continuing Legal Education program, which requires attorneys to attend training on specific legal topics, including diversity, inclusion and the elimination of bias.

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