Understanding New Jersey Rental Laws

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Landlord/tenant relationships are governed at the federal and state level. There may also be residential rental laws that apply to individual cities and counties. These laws lay out the regulations under which landlords must operate. They also define their remedies for dispute resolution when dealing with unruly tenants. It is important for landlords to understand these regulations. Violations may result in stiff penalties and expose a property owner to civil action.

The following document outlines the rules and regulations governing New Jersey residential housing leases and landlord/tenant relationships. Here you will find everything you need to know to protect yourself from liability in residential housing matters.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
How to Avoid Housing Discrimination in New Jersey
> New Jersey Laws that Concern Landlords, Renting, and Leases
> New Jersey Laws Concerning Security Deposits
> New Jersey Laws Regarding Lease Agreements and Rent
> New Jersey and the Implied Warranty of Habitability
> Lease Termination and Eviction
Notice of Entry
Landlord Disclosures
Business Licenses
New Jersey Helpful Links

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

These regulations are laid out in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, or the Civil Rights Act of 1968, extends civil rights protections to the housing market. This was in an effort to desegregate neighborhoods. Today, these laws still apply but that does not stop illegal practices from happening. It is unlawful for any landlord to deny housing on the basis of:

  • Race,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

Illegal actions include:

  • Segregating tenants based on race;
  • Limiting access to amenities based on a protected characteristic;
  • Denying an individual with a disability a “reasonable accommodation”;
  • Charging a disabled individual a security deposit based on the presence of a service animal;
  • Charging increased rent or a security deposit based on the presence of children.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from refusing to make “reasonable accommodations” for individuals with disabilities. Landlords must understand that a no-pets policy does not apply to service animals and service animals do more than act as guide dogs. If a tenant can show that their service animal is registered and provide proof from healthcare professionals that the service animal is necessary, the landlord must accommodate the tenant.

New Jersey Housing Discrimination Laws

New Jersey extends civil rights protections to others. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of:

  • Marital, domestic union, or partnership status;
  • Sexual orientation or affectional orientation;
  • Gender identity or expression;
  • Source of income.

A landlord may not deny housing, refuse to show, or advertise a property that “does not accept section 8” vouchers. While landlords are allowed to ask tenants where their income comes from, or about their credit history, this form must be filled out by all applicants. The forms can not mention any reference to any other protected characteristics.

New Jersey does not specifically list any “exemptions” to this law. However, 55 and over communities are allowed to extend rental offers only to those who are over 55 and over.

How to Avoid Housing Discrimination in New Jersey

Making your selection process as transparent as possible is the key to avoiding housing discrimination in New Jersey. Landlords are advised to select the first qualified applicant. Landlords can reject applications on the basis of poor credit, criminal record, or a prior eviction.

New Jersey Laws that Concern Landlords, Renting, and Leases

The following outlines all the state’s laws concerning landlord/tenant relationships, dispute remedies, and regulations. As you can plainly see they are extensive, difficult to read, and esoteric. The purpose of this guide is not to burden either landlords or tenants with the precise text of the law, but to provide a handy list of guidelines that can be referenced in your dealings.

New Jersey Laws Concerning Security Deposits

New Jersey security deposit laws can be found in N.J. Stat. §§ 46:8-19 – 46:8-2. These laws lay out how much owners can charge for a security deposit and what the procedure is for withholding money from a security deposit. These laws, however, do not apply to owner-occupied rentals with two or less rental units if the tenant has not provided 30-days notice before moving out.

New Jersey law limits the maximum security deposit to one and one-half month’s rent (§§ 46:8-21.2). If a landlord wishes to charge a pet deposit, the total deposit cannot exceed 150% of a month’s rent. There is no statute in New Jersey prohibiting non-refundable fees.

The landlord must confirm receipt of the deposit by notifying the tenant of the name and address of the institution in which it is being held. They must also include the current interest rate. If the landlord chooses to move the deposit, they must likewise inform the tenant of where the deposit is being moved (§§ 46:8-19).

The landlord is required to pay back the security deposit with interest. This also includes rent that was paid in advance. A landlord may, however, credit the interest back to the tenant as part of their rent (§§ 46:8-19).

In addition, a landlord must hold the security deposit in a separate bank or other interest-bearing account. According to the statute, a landlord must separate the account in which the security deposit is held from other personal accounts. Landlords who own 10 or more rental units are required to invest the security deposits in a qualified money-market account. Landlords with less than 10 units can use a savings account or other interest-bearing account (§§ 46:8-19).

A landlord has 30 days to return a security deposit starting from the last day of the lease. The deposit must include any interest accrued over the duration of the lease period. Note that these statutes may change in the case of a fire, flood, or other weather disaster (§§ 46:8-21.1).

In addition, the landlord is allowed to use the deposit for any and all damages caused by the tenant above simple wear and tear. If the landlord seeks to use the deposit to pay for damages to the rental unit, they must present the tenant with an itemized list of the damages for which the deposit will be used. This list must be delivered personally or by certified mail (§§ 46:8-21.1).

Lastly, if the landlord fails to comply with any of these regulations, they can be held liable in the amount of twice the security deposit (§§ 46:8-21.1) plus attorney and court fees.

New Jersey Laws Regarding Lease Agreements and Rent

The lease dictates when the tenant will pay rent. If the landlord seeks to increase rent, they must inform the tenant at least 30 days prior to the increase. The tenant has the option to quit in lieu of paying extra rent (Rent Increase Bulletin). Local rent control ordinances may put further restrictions on rent increases.

Landlords must afford tenants a five-day (business days) grace period for paying rent. Business days exclude Saturday, Sunday, and federal holidays (§§ 2A:42-6.1 and §§ 2A:42-6.3). Landlords may charge late fees, but the Truth in Renting Act demands that they inform tenants in the lease what the penalties are for late rent.

If the tenant bounces a check to the landlord, the landlord can give them a 35-day notice to remedy. If the tenant does not remedy within 35 days, the landlord can append a charge of $100 or three times the amount of the check, whichever is greater. This amount, however, cannot exceed $500 (§§ 2A:32A-1).

New Jersey and the Implied Warranty of Habitability

Landlords are expected to provide habitable dwelling units for their tenants. Rental units that do not provide:

  • Heat,
  • hot water,
  • Functioning plumbing,
  • Functioning locks,
  • Or protection from the weather,

May be considered uninhabitable. When a rental unit is uninhabitable, this triggers a number of tenant’s rights, including the right to:

  • Withhold rent, or 
  • Deduct rent and remedy the issue themselves.

In addition, a landlord may not retaliate or initiate eviction proceedings if the tenant has refused to pay based on a legitimate habitability issue. However, tenants have the burden of proving that the problem they have withheld or deducted rent for is a legitimate habitability issue. These include:

  •   Broken toilets,
  •   Lack of hot water,
  •   Lack of heat or electricity,
  •   Broken windows / damaged locks.

In addition, landlords must maintain a temperature of at least 68℉ between the dates of October 1st and May 1st for every dwelling unit that they own during the hours of 6 am to 11 pm and 65℉ between 11 pm and 6 am.

Landlords must also comply with local building, fire, and safety codes. For more information, please read the New Jersey Habitability Bulletin.

Lease Termination and Eviction

If a landlord must sue a tenant or initiate an eviction, they are allowed to recover court and attorneys fees, but they must mention this in the lease in accord with Truth in Renting Act. A landlord must also make some attempt to mitigate damages to a tenant that they have evicted. This includes attempting to re-rent the property (Sommer v. Kridel).

Tenants and landlords are free to exit lease agreements without providing notice when the lease has a fixed end date.

Eviction laws can be found in N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 THROUGH 2A:18-84.

If a landlord seeks to terminate a yearly tenancy with no fixed end date, they must give the tenant three-months notice. A landlord must give a tenant one-month notice if he or she is on a month-to-month lease. If the tenant is on a week-to-week lease, the landlord must give the tenant seven days.

A landlord may terminate a lease immediately for non-payment if the landlord has not accepted late payments prior to that date (2A:18-61.2). In that case, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice.

A landlord must also give the tenant a 30-day notice to vacate if the tenant has violated any term of the lease. If the tenant has caused damage to the property or engaged in disorderly conduct, the landlord need only give the tenant three days to vacate (2A:18-61.2).

If the tenant fails to vacate the premises in the allotted time, the landlord may charge the tenant “double rent” or holdover rent for each month the tenant remains in illegal possession of the property (N.J.S.A. 2A:42-5).

A landlord may not, however, engage in “self-help” eviction tactics. These include locking a tenant out of the premises or shutting off the utilities. A landlord who engages in such conduct is not only violating civil statutes but criminal statutes as well (Truth in Renting p26).

Notices of Entry

New Jersey laws regarding the right of entry for landlords are covered in the Right of Entry Bulletin. Landlords are generally advised to give tenants one day of notice before entering the premises (p2). This includes performing routine maintenance and repairs.

Landlords can request that tenants give them access to the rental unit for the purpose of showing the apartment. But tenants are under no obligation to grant the landlord access to the property (p2).

Landlords may access the property without notice if conditions exist that put the tenants, other tenants, or neighbors in danger (p2).

Landlord Disclosures

In accord with the Landlord Identity Law, landlords must file a certificate of registration with a city or county clerk. This certificate must contain the name and address of the owner of the property or the corporate officers when the owner is a corporation. It must also contain the name and address of a property manager or superintendent and any other individual who is employed for the purpose of providing maintenance to the property. The clerk will make this certificate available to the public. The landlord must provide each of their tenants with a copy of the certificate.

The Truth in Renting Act requires landlords to disclose the tenant and landlord’s rights and responsibilities.

If a tenant is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, they have certain rights. These can include terminating the lease or changing the locks. More information can be found on page six of the Truth in Renting Guide. Landlords are allowed to ask for proof of status.

Business Licenses

Landlords are required to file a certificate of registration with their local clerk. This document can be found here. Otherwise, there is no statewide statute requiring landlords to have business licenses. The Bureau of Housing Inspection may conduct inspections every five years of hotels or multi-family dwellings to ensure the general safety of the rental units and ensure that they are up to code.

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

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