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A New Jersey Residential Tenant’s Rights

apartment building (2).JPGNew Jersey landlord-tenant law offers residential tenants a great deal of protection to ensure that people have a secure and safe place to live, provided that tenants comply with their duties and responsibilities.

A landlord/tenant relationship typically begins with the signing of a lease. The lease is a contract – a legal document which specifies the rights and obligations of both the landlord and tenant to one another.

In a typical lease, tenants are required to pay rent and a security deposit, take good care of the premises, and comply with all laws. Often tenants are required to pay the utilities and request permission from landlords before obtaining a pet or altering the premises by, for example, repainting rooms. Landlords, on the other hand, have the responsibility to provide tenants with safe premises that are supplied by water, heat, and proper facilities for installation of a refrigerator.

Beyond their contractual responsibilities, landlords and tenants have other responsibilities to each other. However, the responsibilities of New Jersey landlords far exceed those of tenants. For example, tenants have the right of “quiet enjoyment.” Landlords must ensure that New Jersey tenants can live in their premises without any disturbances from other tenants or the landlord.

Further, New Jersey does not allow landlords or police officers to evict tenants by locking them out of the premises. A “self-help” eviction is illegal and in New Jersey is considered a criminal offense. Evictions may only be completed by special court officers with a warrant for removal issued by a judge.

Landlords must therefore file an eviction suit in the Superior Court of New Jersey in the Landlord/Tenant Section to obtain a warrant for removal. However, before landlords can start an eviction proceeding, they must give tenants notice, the right to cure, and wait the applicable period of time, unless it is for non-payment of rent.

Landlords may file a complaint to obtain a warrant for removal for non-payment of rent immediately after tenants fail to pay rent. However, in New Jersey landlords will lose the right to evict tenants who pay rent by no later then the end of the business day on the day of trial.

Further, before landlords in New Jersey can successfully evict a tenant they must register the premises in accordance with the New Jersey Landlord Registration Act. Landlords of premises which are not owner-occupied and have no more than two rental units must file with the clerk of the municipality in which the residential property is situated or with the Bureau of Housing Inspection in the Department of Community Affairs. If the property has more than two units, it must register with the Department of Community Affairs.

In New Jersey the maximum amount of security a landlord can request is one and a half times the monthly rent.

McLaughlin & Nardi’s attorneys are experienced in representing both residential and community tenants and landlords in all aspects of landlord/tenant matters, including drafting leases, complying with the New Jersey Landlord Registration Act, complying with rent control laws, and eviction proceedings. To learn more about what we can do to help, please visit our website, e-mail us, or call one of our lawyers at (973) 890-0004.