New Jersey Landlord Tenant Laws

Renting in New Jersey

Many people choose to rent rather than buy these days.  Renting an apartment or house may be the best choice for you if you are not ready to invest a significant amount of money in a home. If you’re thinking of renting in New Jersey, be aware of the laws and regulations regarding security deposits, rental rules, your responsibilities as a renter, and your right to have a secure, safe place to live when you rent.

Where are New Jersey Rental Laws and Regulations?

There are several places where you can find the actual laws and regulations pertaining to leasing or renting in New Jersey.  The New Jersey Statutes Annotated contain most of the laws, but some of the state regulations appear in the New Jersey Administrative Code.  If you are doing any in-depth research on tenant or landlord issues, be sure to consult both of these sources, or get the help of a librarian.  Sometimes cities and townships have their own local ordinances and codes as well.

Finding Your Rental

You can find New Jersey rentals by looking on your own.  But you also have the option of hiring a realtor or a rental referral agency to help you with your search.  The following links give you some options:

Rentals in New Jersey aren’t cheap, so if you are having trouble finding a place you can afford, see if you are eligible for subsidized rent through the Section 8 voucher program. Landlords cannot refuse you as a renter for participating in Section 8.

Before You Agree to The Lease

Rental contracts or leases in New Jersey do not have to be written.  If you are considering entering an oral agreement to rent a place, make sure you understand the terms.  Ask questions, and request something if writing, if you would feel more comfortable.  Though the landlord is not required to provide a written contract, if he/she does it must be written in “plain language,” that is, it cannot be full of difficult-to-understand legalese.

  • A monthly lease renews automatically unless you or your landlord give notice for change.

  • A year-long lease may be renewed, or default to a monthly lease if it is not renewed.

Before you make an agreement, there are a number of things you should check out:

  • Make sure the premise has a Certificate of Occupancy issued by the local housing inspector.

  • Check the place out, and look for signs of disrepair.

  • If there are repairs to be made request that your landlord provide a written list and description of those items.

  • Understand how are utilities paid.  Are you responsible for the payments, or are they included with your rent?  Your lease should make that clear.

In general, read the lease carefully, and make sure you can agree to the terms.  You are also afforded by law three days during which your attorney can look the contract over.

Paying Your Security Deposit

Before moving into your new place, you will likely need to pay your first month’s rent and supply a security deposit.  Security deposits in New Jersey have some specific requirements as covered by the state’s Rent Security Deposit Act.  For example, these monies are to cover such things as:

  • Failure to pay your rent.  Your landlord can take rent money from these funds if you do not pay.

  • Damage to the property.  If it’s normal wear and tear you’re off the hook, but if you break the dishwasher, you may lose some of your security deposit.

  • Other circumstances as specified in your lease.

By state law, security deposits cannot exceed 150% of the rent, and must be kept in a separate bank account by the landlord.

Protecting Your Security Deposit

According to the New Jersey Rent Security Deposit Act, you must receive a receipt for your security deposit within thirty days of paying it.  Without this receipt, you may have more trouble getting your deposit back later.  Beyond that, you should be presented with documentation showing where the funds are deposited, and how much interest they are earning as they sit for the tenure of your occupancy.

Rent Rules – Tenants

Follow the rules of your lease.  You should find standard wording that includes some very common sense principles for tenants.  These include:

  • Pay your rent on time.

  • Do not willfully damage the property or its appliances.

  • Do not conduct illegal activity on the rental premises.

  • Follow any “no pets” clause your landlord has spelled out.

  • Provide your landlord a 30-day noticed before requesting to break your lease.

There are certain circumstances whereby the law allows you to break your lease without penalty.  Among these are:

  • Death of a spouse.

  • You have a disabling accident or injury.

  • You are eligible for an assisted living facility.

Rent Rules – Landlords

You have a right to safe housing – this is one of the obligations landlords have to their tenants.  Your rental dwelling should be up to local codes for safety, which includes the climate control standards established by the state of New Jersey to keep you warm in the winter.

Landlords can only evict you for specific reasons as outlined by law.  These reasons include:

  • Failure to pay your rent.

  • Allowing the apartment or home to become a hazard from garbage or neglect of regular tenant maintenance.

  • Being disorderly or disruptive after being warned by the landlord.

  • You have been found guilty of illegal activity such as drug trafficking or gang involvement.

Landlord Entry and Access

Unless there is an emergency of some kind, your landlord should request permission before entering your rental apartment or house.  This usually occurs for maintenance inspection, or if repairs to an appliance or other structural problems are necessary.

You are not required by law to supply the landlord with a key to enter the structure.  Neither does the law prescribe that you make the premise available for the purpose of showing it to another potential tenant.  Of course, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want to comply with a reasonable request if you can.  Be aware that there may be wording in your written lease that addresses this issue.

Disagreements with Your Landlord

Even in the best of circumstances, people will disagree.  Both you and your landlord should follow the laws and codes of the state of New Jersey.  If a problem occurs, try to talk it out and either find a solution or a compromise.  If you’ve tried your best, and think you are being treated unfairly or unlawfully, you may take your landlord to a New Jersey Small Claims Court.  For a detailed and clear descriptions of the options and processes available to you, consult the Tentants’ Rights in New Jersey brochure.  You can find more information about issues such as:

  • Mediation vs. court procedures.  Court-facilitated mediation can saves everyone time and money.

  • Court-ordered repairs.  A judge can order your landlord to make repairs to rental property they have neglected.

  • Common defenses against eviction notices and how to defend yourself.

Links

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