Understanding Rent Increases in New Jersey
In New Jersey, landlords are subject to regulation when it comes to increasing rent. Landlords are entitled to increase the rent for their tenants, of course, but there are certain processes that they must adhere to, and certain limitations that restrict the degree to which they can change the rent.
Confused or concerned about rent increase regulation in New Jersey? For a consultation with an experienced New Jersey landlord-tenant attorney here at Griffin Alexander, P.C., call (973) 366-1188 today.
The process that a New Jersey landlord must go through in order to increase the rent depends on the municipality and applicable regulations. As a general rule, however, residential landlords must provide a notice of the impending rent increase, and may only increase the rent at the beginning of the lease term. A landlord may not increase the rent on a unit before the lease expires.
It should also be noted that New Jersey landlords must provide former tenants (after their leases have expired) the option of entering into a new lease at the higher rate. You cannot use the rent increase as a means of “pushing out” a tenant that you don’t like.
In some cases, a tenant will refuse to pay the rent increase and will stay put. The tenant may claim that the rent increase is unconscionable and will likely continue paying their old rent. In such cases, you — as the landlord — may file for eviction, or to have the court compel the tenant to pay the increased rent. You will have to prove to the court that the rent increase is reasonable. If the tenant succeeds in their claim that the rent increase is unconscionable, they may be able to avoid paying the increase.
What makes for an unconscionable rent increase?
As a landlord, you cannot increase the rent to such a degree that it would constitute an unconscionable — in other words, unreasonable — increase. Unconscionability is a nebulous concept to some degree, and as a rule, determinations of unconscionability in the rent increase context turn on the particular facts of the case.
In New Jersey, a number of factors will be considered by the court in determining whether a given rent increase is unconscionable:
- The actual amount of the rent increase;
- The financial circumstances of the landlord (i.e., their revenue, profit, costs, etc.);
- How the new rent compares to the rent of other similar units in the general location;
- The power dynamic between the tenant and the landlord (how much bargaining power each has); and
- Whether the rent increase would surprise or shock a reasonable person.
There is no law clearly delineating what is deemed unconscionable. As such, it’s critical that you have the support of an attorney who can advocate persuasively on your behalf.
As a New Jersey landlord, you are entitled to increase rent, but the law prohibits rent increases that are deemed “unconscionable.” If you are a landlord interested in raising rents but concerned about whether your rent increase will be deemed unconscionable, or if you are facing a dispute relating to a purportedly unconscionable rent increase, you should consult as soon as possible with an attorney who has experience handling rent increase issues pursuant to New Jersey landlord tenant law. Let the skilled attorneys at Griffin Alexander, P.C. assist you!