Legal Reasons for Breaking a Lease in New Jersey

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A tenant who breaks a lease in New Jersey but has a valid legal reason for doing so can avoid paying the rest of the money due on the agreement. She owes her landlord the total rent for the number of months left on the lease after she moves out, but not if she follows the notice procedures under state law and meets state conditions for her early termination basis.

Death

  • Death of the renter or his spouse is grounds for breaking a lease that is for at least one year without liability to the landlord, unless the lease contains a provision that forbids cancellation at the renter's death. The tenant or tenant's estate representative gives written notice of the cancellation to the landlord, and the lease ends 40 days after the landlord receives the paper. He is liable to the landlord if rent is not paid in full up until the early end date, and he must leave the apartment empty five business days before the end date.

Living Conditions

  • A tenant can break a New Jersey lease because of unsuitable living conditions. She must prove the rental is not safe to live in -- such as photographs or a licensed housing inspector's report -- and give the landlord notice of the problems before moving out. The renter cannot move immediately after giving the landlord notice, as the landlord has an acceptable amount of time to make the repairs. No set definition for "reasonable time" exists, and if the landlord sues, the judge would decide whether the tenant waited long enough before breaking the lease. Some cases, such as no heat in middle of cold weather, call for a faster response from the landlord because of the immediate health and safety danger.

    A tenant can break a lease by giving 30 days' notice if she or her child is in immediate physical danger at the rental address. The notice must include the name of the person who poses the threat.

Disabilities

  • A disabling condition or accident of a tenant or his spouse is a valid reason for ending a lease that is at least one year. The renter or spouse must get a disability form from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, complete the form and return it to the landlord. Various information is necessary, including a doctor's verification of the condition and evidence the renter's new income level is not enough to pay the rent. A disabled tenant may break a lease if the landlord fails to respond to accessibility requests, such a ramp for a person in a wheelchair. The renter must notify the landlord of his intent to break the lease because of lack of handicap access. The notice must include a doctor's certification of the condition and a statement pointing out the landlord was asked to make accommodations but failed to comply.

Seniors and Military Service

  • A renter over age 61 can break a lease to move into an assistance facility, such as a nursing home or income-limited housing. Tenants who signed a lease but later enlisted in the armed forces may break a lease by giving the landlord notice at least 30 days before moving.

Considerations

  • A tenant can end a month-to-month lease or a lease without a stated duration for any reason, but she must give the landlord written notice 30 days before the intended move date. Otherwise, the lease automatically renews itself for another month, unless the landlord ends the agreement. A landlord can sue a tenant who broke a lease even if the tenant's reason is valid. The tenant must prove she followed all the legal requirements.

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