Renter’s Rights in New Jersey: The Lease

Renter’s rights in New Jersey should be understood by all tenants and landlords to avoid conflict and create the best relationship between all parties. This post is the first in a series and focuses specifically on the lease.

Renter’s rights in New Jersey are incredibly important for both landlords and tenants to understand. The best resource for this can be found here, but below is the first in a series on renter’s rights in New Jersey. As always, one should discuss any situation with a professional. In this case, a real estate professional or real estate attorney.

Truth In Renting

Truth In Renting is a booklet created and maintained by the Department of Community Affairs for the State of New Jersey — it is available for free at their website. This booklet should be given to the renter by the landlord, as it is required by the state, and should be made available in both English and Spanish. This booklet covers the lease (covered in this part of the series), rent, habitability, eviction, and information regarding senior citizens and disabled tenants.

The Lease

A lease is an agreement between two parties where one party owns a dwelling and agrees to let the other party stay in the dwelling in exchange for compensation. A lease can be either written or oral, but the author’s recommendation is to always get a lease in writing for proper documentation. For the renter it is important to understand any fees that may be included in the lease, which can include late fees or attorney fees for the landlord if the need should arise.

The lease cannot be changed until it expires, and this also means that if the property is to change hands or the landlord is to change the lease, it should still be honored until it expires.

Security Deposit

The security deposit is one of the most important things to understand in the lease, as it can actually be a way for the tenant to get some extra cash to put towards their rent. First, it is important to know the landlord cannot collect more than one and one-half month’s rent for a security deposit. This includes an additional deposit for pets, if allowed by the terms of the lease. An example is that if the rent is $1,000/month then the security deposit can be no more than $1,500. The landlord could have a security deposit of $1,400 and then a $100 pet deposit.

The security deposit must be put into an account by the landlord that cannot be touched or mixed with other funds. If the account happens to collect interest, then this interest belongs to the tenant and can be paid out to the tenant or put towards the rent. Written notice must be given to the tenant regarding location of the security deposit and whether it will be collecting interest within 30 days of it being given to the landlord. It is important to note that if this notice is not given, then the tenant can give written notice to the landlord that the security deposit must go towards rent and the landlord cannot request any further security deposits.

No deductions are to be made from the security deposit until the lease has expired. Once expired, the security deposit must be returned within 30 days. It can be returned with deductions due to any damages aside from normal wear and tear that might have occurred. The landlord must provide an itemized deduction for the tenant. Renters should always take care of the property — if damages exceed the security deposit then landlords can sue the tenant for the remainder. Vice versa, a renter can sue for up to double the security deposit if it is not returned within the 30 days or if they do not agree with the deductions.

Pets

Landlords have the right to not allow pets and have that written into the lease. However, once it is agreed upon that a pet or pets are allowed, the landlord or any new landlord cannot change that in the current lease or any lease that is renewed. This includes if the property transfers ownership to a new landlord. The other important note is that the landlord can restrict any additional pets aside from the pets that were originally agreed upon.

The landlord also has the ability to evict a tenant based on the tenant’s pet becoming an issue regarding the welfare of the property, the landlord, or other tenants. The landlord must first ask for the pet to be removed; if the pet is not removed, then eviction may begin.

Renting for People with Disabilities

People with disabilities may require modification to a dwelling in order to properly enjoy it and live a full life. The landlord is not required to make any such accommodations but must allow for the tenant to make the accommodations at their own expense. A landlord can also put into a lease that the tenant will restore the property to its original condition at the tenant’s expense when the lease has ended.

Left Behind Property?

If the tenant leaves behind property after the lease has expired, then the landlord must give written notice to the tenant advising them that the property is in their possession. The landlord must specify a date that they will hold the property until, and the tenant must respond in writing to the landlord. From the time of response the tenant has 15 days to recover their property. If the 15 days passes, then the landlord may consider the property abandoned. The landlord can hold the tenant responsible for any costs that may have been incurred while holding the tenant’s property.

Background Checks

A landlord has the right to do a credit check, employment verification, and background check on the potential tenant. The cost of this can be charged to the tenant. If for any reason there is something found in the checks that the landlord uses as reason for denial of application, then the report must be made available to the potential tenant.

Please leave any questions, comments, or personal experiences on tenant-landlord relationships below. The next post in this series will focus on rent.

Image Source: StockSnap.io

Kevin is a Realtor based in Bordentown, NJ that concentrates on Mercer County and Burlington County. He works very closely with first time home buyers to guide them through the sometimes complicated process of buying a home and makes it easy for them to understand by simplifying each step. The end result of seeing someone turn a property into their home is what makes it all worth it for Kevin.

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