New Jersey's landlord-tenant laws are designed to provide a framework for the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. Newark is the U.S city with the highest amount of renters, and in a state with 9 million residents where almost 36% are renters, both landlords and tenants must understand these laws in order to avoid legal complications and maintain a healthy and productive tenancy.
Is NJ tenant or landlord friendly?
New Jersey is not considered to be particularly landlord-friendly, as the landlord-tenant laws tend to favor the tenant. Many cities have rent control, and evictions are generally slow and difficult to carry out. Conducting a proper tenant screening helps landlords and property managers make informed decisions about who they rent their properties to.
Is a Written Rental Agreement Required?
There is no legal requirement that mandates you to have a written rental agreement in New Jersey. However, having a written lease helps protect the landlord and tenant from misunderstandings and it is highly advisable to have one in place. While oral agreements are acceptable, any lease above three years requires a well-written agreement outlining the rights and responsibilities of both the tenant and landlord.
A written agreement must be in a plain language that anyone can easily understand. Your lease agreement should include all the details of your rental arrangement, such as rent amount, rules and regulations, late fees, security deposits, and more. You can download our free template here.
Rent and payment laws
When it comes to rent and payment laws, New Jersey is a little different from other states. While New Jersey does not have a statewide rent control law, over 100 cities and towns across the Garden State have adopted their own rent control ordinances, including Newark, Jersey City and New Brunswick. Each city or town could have its own rules on how much you can charge for rent, when rent is due, and how much notice you need to give your tenant before raising the rent.
Increasing the rent
Landlords can increase rent prices with a 30-day notice for tenants on a monthly lease or a 90-day notice for tenants on a yearly lease.
New Jersey allows landlords to charge tenants a late fee if they don't pay their rent on time. However, the late fee must be "reasonable" and cannot exceed 5% of the rent payment — so, if a tenant's rent payment is $1,000 and they pay their rent five days late, the late fee cannot exceed $50.
For written lease agreements, the late rent clause should specify what happens if the tenant pays late. This could include a grace period for rent payments, after which the landlord can charge a late fee. Be sure to read between the fine print of your lease agreement to avoid any misunderstandings later on.
The maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit in New Jersey is one and a half months' rent. NJ Landlords must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days after they move out, along with any accumulated interest. If the tenant is liable for damages, landlords can provide an itemized list of damages and the cost to repair them. Landlords can deduct the cost of repairs from the security deposit and must return the remaining amount to the tenant within the 30-day timeframe.
In New Jersey, a landlord can evict a tenant for any of these reasons:
- Non-payment of rent
- Damaging property
- Violating lease terms
- Lease expires and is not renewed by either the landlord or the tenant
If you must evict a tenant, endeavor to follow the correct eviction procedures. I short, the eviction process in New Jersey consists of the following:
- Issue a written notice. Notices can include 7-Day notice to quit, 30-Day notice to quit or 90-day notice to quit, depending on the circumstances and preferences. Please note however that a written notice is not necessary if the reason for eviction is failure to pay rent, unless the landlord has accepted late payments frequently in the past.
- If the set timeframe of the written notice has expired and there is still no agreement, the landlord must go to court. You need to file in the jurisdiction where the rental property is located, and the complaint filed must include details of why such as failing to pay rent, damages to property etc. The requirements will vary between the jurisdictions.
- Pay the legal fees
Evcitions in New Jersey can be lengthy, and evicting a tenant is rarely a pleasant experience. Eviction should be the last resort after unsuccessful negotiations. You can also try other methods like cash for keys before deciding to evict.
Other rules and regulations
There is now law that requires landlords to rekey between tenants in NJ. That being said, it's always advisable to do so. Keep in mind that you cannot charge a tenant for the cost of rekeying the locks, as this is a responsibility that falls on the landlord — unless the tenants caused damages that resulted in the need for rekeying.
In New Jersey, it is up to the landlord to decide whether or not they will allow pets on their property. If you decide to allow pets, include pet policies and rules, such as no cats allowed, or all dogs must be on a leash, in your rental agreement. However, if you do not want tenants to have pets at your rental property, make sure your lease states this very clearly.
Landlords must also consider the needs of tenants with disabilities who require service animals on the premises.
Do You Need a License to Be a Landlord?
No, you do not need a license to be a landlord in New Jersey. Here, landlords are legally mandated to submit a Landlord Identity Registration Form if they decide to rent out their property. Alternatively, you are required to obtain a Certificate of Registration from the Department of Community Affairs Bureau of Housing Inspection.
Unique State Laws/City Laws
New Jersey has its own set of laws and regulations when it comes to renting out property. Here are some of the unique state laws/city laws that you should be aware of:
- Tenants have the right to withhold rent if necessary repairs are not made.
- Landlords cannot discriminate against prospective tenants based on race, religion, gender, family status, or disability.
- Tenants can deduct the cost of repairs from their rent if the landlord doesn't make them promptly.
Landlord-tenant laws in New Jersey tend to favor the tenant. As a landlord, you should take the necessary precautions such as having a written lease agreement in place and do a proper tenant screening. Another way to protect your assets is to get a landlord insurance policy customized for New Jersey. The coverage is split into two main parts: property and liability. Landlord insurance can also cover loss of rental income if the property becomes temporarily inhabitable due to covered perils.