Bad faith (Latin: mala fides) is a legal concept in which a malicious motive on the part of a party in a lawsuit undermines their case. It has an effect on the ability to maintain causes of action and obtain legal remedies.1
Bad faith is acting with the intent to defraud, the intent to cheat. There is a legal belief that one who has unclean hands cannot press a lawsuit against someone with clean hands. (I say a theory because like all human endeavors, the legal system is flawed and therefore I am sure all of you could cite many a personal story about some bad actor who sued your innocent and saintly uncle and took him for all he was worth. However, this post isn’t about your saintly uncle, it’s about me, so leave him out of it already!)
Therefore, the theory behind preventing bad faith actors from recovering in some court situations is a good one. If you are the breaching party to a contract, you can’t usually sue to recover against the non-breaching party.
Why am I giving this little legal lesson in Bad Faith? Why because it pertains to my life today, that’s why.
Our previous landlords are acting in Bad Faith. Bad Landlords, no rent check. They have the remainder of our security deposit, and have been holding it for ransom while they whittle away at it, bit by diminishing bit. These are the people who allowed us to move our little family, asthmatic child and pregnant wife and all, into a cigarette smoke covered and pet urine smeared house. A house that smelled so incredibly bad when I first walked into it that I almost threw up. These are the landlords that delayed removing the carpets that were so filthy we had to lay cardboard boxes over them to walk to and from our rooms, so our feet wouldn’t touch them, for months.
Now, here we are, happily out of their fracking house, and they claim there is a “strong doggy odor” in the back family room where we kept our dogs kennels. They are angling for new carpets.
No. I had them cleaned, professionally, per our lease agreement. The pets never, NEVER, urinated or defecated on the carpets. There is no reason to replace them, well, no reason other than greed and bad faith.
Wanna know where the unpleasant smell is? Why it’s buried deep within the cement under the carpets. The cement they were too cheap to seal with any sort of odor blocking sealant. The cement their previous tenant’s pets soaked in urine and feces. It could also be buried deep within the a/c ducts, where the hundreds of thousands of cigarettes he smoked, in the shower even, wafted their tar-laden contents into the air, to be whisked down the ducts and throughout the house.
Did they deal with any of these unpleasant odors when we lived there? Of course not, they wouldn’t even make the simple repairs we requested over and over again. No, they want us to buy them new carpets, because they are trying to sell their stinky little hell hole for way too much money and are too cheap to actually put forward enough dough to convince anyone to look at it.
Happily, I get to sue them if they try it. New Jersey, while muggy and full of people who like to make rude hand gestures on the highway, is a good place to be a tenant with crappy landlords. The New Jersey Rent Security Deposit Act allows me to recover double that erroneously charged me by my landlord, plus fees and costs.2
What does that have me busily doing? Why getting out my old photographs and filing a complaint.
It is the benefit to being a shark. When someone asks you to swim, you get to bite. Normally, I prefer to leave my teeth out of it, but these people have spent an entire year making my life hell. I have let violation after violation of our lease agreement slide, in the hopes that it would all be over soon. So now I am licking my chops.
1. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bad_faith
2. N.J. Stat. §§ 46:8-1 to – 49