Landlords are often put in a complicated position with regard to problematic tenants. As a New Jersey landlord, you may be concerned about whether one of your tenants is breaching the rental contract, or whether they are causing permanent damage to the unit that will require significant repairs. In some instances, other tenants may complain about the activities of one tenant, and may request that you resolve the matter.
So, do you have the right to investigate on your own, or to otherwise enter the residential unit of a tenant?
In the state of New Jersey, landlords do not have an absolute right of entry when it comes to residential units, and certainly not in a forcible manner (any and all landlord entries must be accomplished in a peaceable manner). Landlords are only entitled to enter a given residential unit only if the tenant gives them consent to do so (or if a court orders such entry) — fortunately, however, a tenant may be required to give a landlord consent to enter in certain circumstances.
Let’s run through some of the basics.
As a landlord, it’s critical that you do not unlawfully enter your residential tenant’s unit. Unlawful entry is governed by New Jersey landlord tenant law, more specifically N.J.S.A. 2A: 39-1, which states that no person, which includes the landlord, is entitled to enter a tenant’s residential unit without the consent of the tenant, except where the entry is made pursuant to various legal processes elaborated upon further by New Jersey statutory law.
You may be able to obtain the right of entry by consent. To do so, however, you must give your tenant reasonable notice ahead of time that you wish to enter their unit (typically, notice must be given at least 24 hours ahead of time). The notice of entry must also give a particular time. You cannot be vague about your time of entry when providing notice of such entry.
Once notice is served, the tenant must provide consent — otherwise, you cannot enter the residential unit (absent some other legal justification for doing so). You cannot force the tenant to give consent, whether by threat, intimidation, or various other methods.
One of the major exceptions to the consent requirement is that of inspection, maintenance, and repair. As a landlord, you must be allowed to adequately inspect and maintain your property, and make repairs as necessary. No permission is necessary in order for a landlord to conduct an inspection, maintenance, or repair of a residential unit. You must, however, still provide notice of entry at least 24 hours ahead of the inspection (and again, this notice must be sufficiently specific as to the time of intended entry).
When making requests for entry on the basis of inspection, maintenance, or repair, take care not to be excessive. If you do so in a manner that reveals an intent to harass, then the tenant may be able to assert a claim against you.
If you are a residential landlord and have questions or concerns about whether you can enter a particular unit, then you should consult with an attorney who has experience handling New Jersey landlord tenant law. Let the skilled attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. assist you!
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