Renters in New Jersey, as in most states, have many rights that protect them against unfair business practices and treatment by landlords. New Jersey passed a statute in 1976 to ensure various levels of defense and recourse for renters and to provide a framework under which landlords can deal with tenants. New Jersey law also requires that leases be written in simple, easy-to-understand language.
Finding a Rental & Signing a Lease
New Jersey law has several regulations designed to help renters looking for a home or apartment to rent. The first of these regulations is designed to protect low-income residents. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(g) prohibits landlords and apartments from refusing to rent to tenants with Section 8 vouchers (federal housing subsidies). New Jersey also protects people from unscrupulous listing and rental agents under N.J.A.C. 11:5-1:32. This code requires a rental agency to provide you with a written contract listing potential fees, and limits the fees to $25 until the agency has actually found you a place to live. Finally, renting agencies cannot refer you to apartments unless they have confirmed the availability of the apartments and have the landlords' permission.
If payments are not made by a certain time of the month (stipulated in the lease), a landlord has the right to charge the renter a late fee. Landlords have the right to take the issue of unpaid fees to court, provided that the terms violated are spelled out reasonably in the lease and agreed to in writing by both parties. Nevertheless, there are conditions under which a landlord may not request late charges; for instance, if a renter is late because necessary repairs were not made. By law, a grace period of five business days must also be allowed for late charges to be paid in full. Otherwise, a landlord can move to evict a tenant.
New Jersey's Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, lists 18 provisions under which a tenant may be evicted. These are known as "evictions for cause." Nonpayment of rent can lead to eviction for cause, as can disorderly conduct, violating rules, destroying property, or violating the lease or the law. Unless one of the 18 listed provisions in N.J.S.A. 2A: 18-61.1 is met, a landlord may not summarily evict a tenant from an apartment, complex or tenement.
Safe Housing Regulations and Rent
Routine maintenance is required to ensure that housing is safe and clean. This means that a landlord is responsible for providing any and all necessary repairs to appliances, sanitation, and entryways. The responsibility for extermination of pests also rests on the landlord. New Jersey's "warranty of habitability" states that basic housing elements must be in good repair to guarantee that a residence is fit to be occupied. According to a 1970 case in New Jersey Court called Marini v. Ireland, if a landlord fails to keep a premises livable, a renter can legally pay the cost of repair or replacement himself and deduct the cost from the rent owed.
Right to Entry
Based on a New Jersey Court decision in Ashley Court Enterprises v. Whittaker, a landlord is not prohibited by law to keep a key to an apartment or tenement, nor is a renter required to provide the landlord with a key. Under N.J.A.C. 5:10-5.1(c), a landlord can enter a premises to make repairs or inspections, but the landlord must provide at least one day's notice. However, a landlord may not abuse his right to own a key to the renter's apartment by harassing a renter, allowing himself in at unreasonable times, or abusing a renter's personal effects. A landlord may not enter a home in order to resolve a rent dispute, or to evict a renter who has not paid rent. Disputes in this area can go to court. A landlord may enter an apartment immediately in response to an emergency.
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