Amendments to Anti-Eviction Act Would Provide Landlords with Recourse for Overcrowding
A new bill was recently proposed to the New Jersey Senate amending the Anti-Eviction Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1). The bill, sponsored by Senator Anthony R. Bucco of District 25 (Morris and Somerset), amends the Anti-Eviction Act (“Act”) to include a method of eviction for overcrowding in residential apartment communities.
The first proposed change is to subsection (g) of the Act. The existing language in subsection (g) provides a method of eviction for landlords attempting to abate housing code or health code violations. The proposed language is designed to specifically create a cause of eviction under the Act when overcrowding is the fault of the tenant’s conduct. The proposed language is as follows:
- . . .In those cases where the tenant is being removed for any reason specified in this subsection, except for overcrowding where the tenant's own conduct was the primary cause of the overcrowding no warrant for possession shall be issued until P.L.1967, c.79 (C.52:31B-1 et seq.) and P.L.1971, c.362 (C.20:4-1 et seq.) have been complied with.
This language references a later subsection that this bill would add to the Act. The section to be added in accordance with this bill is subsection (s), which would provide a method of eviction for tenants who have over occupied apartments. The proposed language is as follows:
- The person's conduct was the primary cause for overcrowding or unauthorized occupancy and the person has continued, after a written notice to cease, to permit overcrowding or unauthorized occupancy of a residential unit. 
Both sections of the Act also include elements as to whether a tenant is at fault. The proposed reasonings provide that a tenant must be provided with a lease, where the number of occupants have been specified, the number of allowed occupants was within applicable code requirements or rental policies in the lease, and that the additional occupants in excess of the number of occupants allowed and specified in the code/policies became residents without expressed consent of the landlord. These requirements essentially provide that the tenant was aware of occupancy limits but chose to have others occupy the apartment in excess of the limits. The lease, however, must specifically state the occupancy guidelines, which indicates that landlords should consider revisions to their lease agreements. The exact language proposed is as follows:
- . . . In order for the conduct of a tenant to be deemed the primary cause for overcrowding, it must be established (1) that the tenant signed a lease or was provided a written copy of the rental policy in which the number of allowed occupants was specified, (2) that the number of allowed occupants was within the standards established by the applicable code requirements, or rental policy if a number was specified in the lease, and that (3) any additional occupants in excess of the number of occupants specified became residents of the rental unit without the expressed consent of the owner-landlord.
- . . . For the purposes of this subsection, overcrowding or unauthorized occupancy of a residential unit shall be deemed to be the responsibility of the tenant if it is established (1) that the tenant signed a lease or was provided a written copy of the rental policy in which the number of allowed occupants was specified, (2) that the number of allowed occupants was within the standards established by the applicable code requirements, or rental policy if a number was specified in the lease, and that (3) any additional occupants in excess of the number of occupants specified became residents of the rental unit without the expressed consent of the owner-landlord.
The proposed language also defines the terms “applicable code requirements” and “rental policy.” The definitions apply to both sections and are as follows:
"applicable code requirements" means standards governing the occupancy of space adopted by the Department of Community Affairs pursuant to the State Housing Code, promulgated pursuant to P.L.1966, c.168 (C.2A:42-74 et seq.) or the "Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law," P.L.1967, c.76 (C.55:13A-1 et seq.), and
"rental policy" means any documents including, but not limited to, a lease agreement, rental application, rules and regulations, or rules of conduct established by the owner-landlord that creates maximum occupancy limits for the rental unit.
Overall, the impact of this legislation creates its own cause of eviction for occupancy, so that subsection (g) is the exclusive remedy for tenants who intentionally over-occupy the apartments. Subsection (g) can be a longer process, as this subsection may require notices that provide three (3) months’ notice prior to eviction. The proposed language provides an expedited timeline for eviction, equivalent to an eviction based on breach of lease. This is especially important, considering the tenants in the proposed scenario have violated the occupancy code requirements intentionally.
If you require any legal assistance with regard to the above-referenced bill or occupancy requirements in general, contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. for further legal advice or representation.
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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 All citation is as follows: 2018 New Jersey Senate Bill No. 2344, New Jersey Two Hundred Eighteenth Legislature - First Annual Session, 2018 New Jersey Senate Bill No. 2344, New Jersey Two Hundred Eighteenth Legislature - First Annual Session