A summary of New Jersey Landlord Tenant Laws based on state law statutes as they apply to residential lease agreements executed between landlords and tenants.
Required Disclosures (by Landlords)
Flood Zone: Prior to move-in, landlord must inform tenant if rental is in a flood zone or area (does not apply to properties containing two or fewer dwelling units, or to owner-occupied properties of three or fewer units). (N.J. Stat. Ann. §46:8-50)
Truth in Renting Act: Except in buildings of 2 or fewer units, and owner-occupied premises of 3 or fewer units, landlord must distribute to new tenants at or prior to move-in the Department of Community Affairs’ statement of legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords of rental dwelling units (Spanish also). (N.J.S.A. §§46:8-44, 46:8-45, 46:8-46)
Child Protection Window Guards: Landlords of multi-family properties must include information in the lease about tenants’ rights to request window guards. The Legislature’s Model Lease and Notice clause reads as follows: “The owner (landlord) is required by law to provide, install and maintain window guards in the apartment if a child or children 10 years of age or younger is, or will be, living in the apartment or is, or will be, regularly present there for a substantial period of time if the tenant gives the owner (landlord) a written request that the window guards be installed. The owner (landlord) is also required, upon the written request of the tenant, to provide, install and maintain window guards in the hallways to which persons in the tenant’s unit have access without having to go out of the building. If the building is a condominium, cooperative or mutual housing building, the owner (landlord) of the apartment is responsible for installing and maintaining window guards in the apartment and the association is responsible for installing and maintaining window guards in hallway windows. Window guards are only required to be provided in first floor windows where the window sill is more than six feet above grade or there are other hazardous conditions that make installation of window guards necessary to protect the safety of children.” The notice must be conspicuous and in boldface type.
Security Deposit Limit
The equivalent of one and one-half months’ rent may be charged for the security deposit. If additional security is collected annually, the increase may not exceed 10% of the current deposit. The landlord is required to disclose the name and address of the financial institution where the deposit is being kept, the type of account, interest rate, and the amount of the deposit.
New Jersey security deposit laws do not apply to owner-occupied buildings up to three units unless the tenant wants to exercise his or her right to have such laws apply. If so, the tenant must give a 30 day written notice to the landlord exercising this right.
Deadline for Returning Security Deposit
If there was a fire, flood, condemnation or mandatory evacuation of some sort, the deposit must be returned with 5 days. Otherwise, a landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has moved out and returned the keys.
Interest is required to be paid to the tenant either once a year or as a credit off of the rent. Every time the landlord pays or credits the tenant interest, he or she is required to provide the name and address of the financial institution where the deposit is kept, the type of account, interest rate, and the amount of the deposit.
Small Claims Lawsuits
Any landlord-tenant case involving no more than $5,000 in damage may be filed in small claims court.
The landlord may begin charging a late fee after rent is past due. However, if the tenant is a senior citizen receiving benefits such as Social Security, or anyone who is disabled and receiving benefits such as Social Security Disability, the landlord must wait 5 days to begin charging a late fee.
Month-to-month agreements require a 30 day notice for any changes. Typically, longer term lease agreements must govern themselves by mentioning rent increases. However, there are approximately 100 cities and towns (such as Jersey City, Newark and New Brunswick) with rent control ordinances that dictate when and how much of an increase can occur.
Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent
A tenant may withhold rent if a landlord fails to maintain a safe habitable unit by paying it to a court appointed administrator, but only after sending the landlord a certified notice allowing 30 days to correct the problem. For detailed information on rent withholding, see N.J. Stat. Ann. §§, 2A:42-87, 2A:42-88. To repair and deduct the cost, see case law Marini v. Ireland, 265 A.2d 526 (1970).
Termination and Eviction Rules
N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:18-53(c), 2A:19-61.1, 2A:18-61.2(a) states that an unconditional 3 day notice to quit may be used for tenants engaging disorderly conduct; willful or grossly negligent destruction of landlord’s property; assaults upon or threats against the landlord; termination of tenant’s employment as a building manager, janitor, or other employee of the landlord; conviction for use, possession, or manufacture of an illegal drug either on the property or adjacent to it within the last two years, unless the tenant has entered a rehabilitation program (includes harboring anyone so convicted); conviction or civil liability for assault or terroristic threats against the landlord, landlord’s family, or landlord’s employee within the last two years (includes harboring); or liability in a civil action for theft from landlord, landlord’s family, landlord’s employee, or another tenant.
N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:18-61.2(b), 2A:18-61.1 allows an unconditional one month notice to quit to be used for habitual failure to pay rent after written notice; continued violations, despite repeated warnings, of the landlord’s reasonable rules and regulations; at the termination of a lease, refusal to accept reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease, including specifically any change in the term thereof.
N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 2A:18-53(c), 2A:18-61.1(e)(1) provides that conditional 3 day notices to cure or quit can be used but lease must specify which violations will result in eviction. (Some courts have ruled that the tenant be given an opportunity to cure the violation or condition any time up to the entry of judgment in favor of the landlord.)
Access to Property
A one day advance notice is required for inspections and repairs, and “reasonable” notice for other reasons.
New Jersey Lease Agreement
New Jersey Landlord-Tenant Law Statutes
New Jersey Stat. Ann. §§ 46:8-1 to 46:8-50; 2A:42-1 to 42-96.