Legally Speaking: The Top 10 Responsibilities of a New Jersey Landlord (Part 1)
When it comes to renting units to tenants in New Jersey, landlords are required to abide by certain state, local and federal rules. New Jersey landlord-tenant law governs a number of things ranging from the types of questions that may be included on a rental application to when you can evict someone.
Practically speaking, if a landlord fails to comply with his or her legal responsibilities, the results can be costly. With that said, the information below is provided to help landlords in New Jersey avoid common legal issues and maintain a productive business. If you have questions or concerns about your legal responsibilities as a New Jersey landlord, contact Griffin Alexander as soon as possible.
Be Sure to Follow State Rules When It Comes to Rent-Related Issues
Of course, in order to maintain a thriving business, landlords want all their tenants to pay their rent on time, without incident. However, if you find that you need to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent or due to other issues such as damage to the apartment and/or a nuisance, be sure to follow New Jersey’s rules and procedures.
State law governs a number of rent-related issues, including the amount of notice a landlord is required to give a tenant prior to an eviction. And depending on where your rental property is located, local rules may govern areas with rent control.
Steer Clear of Discrimination Issues
Prior to advertising a vacancy, landlords should be aware of and understand the fair housing laws, as they will provide invaluable guidance on what you can and cannot say and do when dealing with potential tenants. Failure to abide by the law in this regard can result in costly discrimination lawsuits and/or complaints.
Landlords in New Jersey can deny an applicant due to bad credit, negative references from prior landlords, or a history of late rent payments. However, it is important for landlords to be aware that they cannot discriminate against potential tenants based on their race, sex, national origin, religion, disability or their familial status (i.e. having kids under the age of 18).
Make Sure Your Unit is Habitable
In New Jersey and elsewhere throughout the country, landlords are required to provide tenants with a premises that is in a livable condition. The legal doctrine governing such a condition is referred to as the “implied warranty of habitability.”
Landlords should note that if they fail to fix certain vital issues within a unit (i.e. the heater, electricity, gas, and hot water), the tenant may have a right to withhold his or her rent or fix the repair and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent.
Follow State Security Deposit and Return Rules
Security deposits are a major point of contention between landlords and tenants. Landlords can avoid such disputes by understanding certain rules with respect to the return of a security deposit, deposit limits and interest obligations.
Maintaining a checklist when a tenant moves in and out of a unit, as well as providing the tenant with a security deposit itemization can help avoid potential problems. For example, an itemization of the security deposit must be sent certified mail within 30 days of vacating the property.
Put it in Writing
Leases and rental agreements should always be in writing, as this will clearly outline the contractual basis of the landlord-tenant relationship. The document should provide important details related to how long the tenant can remain in the unit, remedies that a landlord can take if the tenant is in default, as well as the amount of money that must be paid on a monthly basis for the lease. The lease or rental agreement should include and explain all of the rules under the law that must be followed by both the landlord and the tenant.
Learn more about the legal responsibilities of a New Jersey landlord in Part 2 of this series. If you have questions about your legal obligation as a landlord, contact Griffin Alexander today.