Many similar questions arise often when dealing with various legal subjects. We have put together a list of the most frequently asked questions. If you do not find an answer to your question, please contact us.
Is there a limit to the maximum amount of rent a landlord can charge?
No, provided there are no rent control laws in place. Also, a landlord may increase the rent that a tenant pays, but there are procedures that a landlord must follow and the increase must be “reasonable.” Prior to the end of the existing lease term, a landlord must give notice of the increase of rent within the time-frame stipulated in the lease. The tenant will then have the option of entering into a new lease at the increased rental rate. If the tenant refuses to sign the new lease or vacate the unit, a new tenancy is automatically created at the increased rental rate, so long as proper notice has been given to the tenant.
Are there rent control/rent stabilization policies of laws in New Jersey?
Yes, rent control exists in New Jersey, but on a municipality by municipality basis. These ordinances regulate the amount and frequency of rent increases allowed. However, these ordinances do not cover all rental units. Please contact our office to discover if your rental unit is affected.
May I charge an application fee, late rent charge, or a returned payment fee?
There is no law which prohibits a landlord from charging an application fee. There is no limit on the amount that may be charged for a late fee, but a charge of more than 5% is likely to be found unreasonable by a judge. However, a tenant who is part of a federal program, or senior citizen is entitled to a five day grace period. If a landlord desires to charge a returned payment fee, there should be a provision in the lease allowing him/her to do so. All of these items must be called “additional rent” in the lease agreement.
May I use a daily late charge?
There is no prohibition on the use of a daily rent charge; however, if the amount is unreasonable a judge may prohibit a landlord from collecting the entire amount.
What is the maximum amount I can collect as a security deposit?
The maximum security deposit a landlord can require is an amount equal to one and one half month’s rent. The landlord can raise the security deposit to coincide with a rent increase, but a landlord cannot require an increase of greater than 10% in any given year. N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.2.
My tenant has moved out, what do I do with their security deposit?
A landlord has 30 days from the date of move-out to return the security deposit and interest, less any damages to the apartment. If damages are taken out, the landlord must compile a list of the damages to the property and the cost of repairs. This list must be sent to the tenant’s new address via registered or certified mail. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in the tenant being entitled to an award of double the amount of the security deposit, along with full costs of the proceedings, and reasonable attorney’s fees. N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.1.
What is a common problem with security deposits?
New Jersey has certain requirements for how a landlord must handle the security deposit. First, the security deposit must be placed in a distinct escrow account, so as to not be mixed with the landlord’s other monies. Also, if a landlord rents 10 or more apartments he or she must place the security deposit in an insured money market fund or a federally insured bank account. If a landlord rents fewer than 10 apartments, the security deposit must be placed in a bank account that pays at least the regular rate of interest. All interest earned must be paid to the tenant in cash each year, or applied to the rent paid by the tenant on the renewal of their lease. No administrative fee may be taken from the security deposit. N.J.S.A. 46:8-19.
How can I end a lease agreement?
A landlord must have “just cause” to terminate a lease agreement. The mere fact that the lease term has expired is not sufficient to terminate the lease. Just cause includes, but is not limited to, a failure of the tenant to pay rent, a breach of the lease agreement, destruction of property, a violation of the rules and regulations of the property, or interference with the quiet enjoyment of the other tenants. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.3
Are there circumstances where I am required to release a tenant from a lease agreement?
Yes, there are situations in which a tenant must be released from the lease agreement. Under the Lease Termination Due to Disabling Illness, Accident, or Death Law, a tenant may break his or her lease by giving forty days written notice to the landlord.
Under the New Jersey Safe Housing Act, a victim of domestic violence may terminate his or her lease by providing notice to the landlord that the tenant or child of tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from a specific person if he or she remains in the unit and by providing certain documentation showing that domestic violence has in fact happened. The lease will terminate thirty days after the notice is given.
Finally, the Service Members Civil Relief Act allows a service member to break his or her lease if: 1) the tenant joins the military after entering into the lease agreement; or 2) a service member, who enters the lease agreement while being enlisted, receives military orders for a permanent change of station or to deploy with a military unit for a period longer than ninety days.
Can I require my tenants to obtain renter’s insurance?
Landlord may require tenants to obtain renter’s liability insurance, and can make the failure to do so a breach of the lease agreement. A landlord cannot require (but may suggest) that a tenant obtain personal property insurance.
How much notice do I have to give a tenant in order to evict them?
If a landlord desires to evict a tenant based on non-payment of rent, no notice needs to be given to the tenant. If the eviction is for any other reason, notice must be given to the tenant. The length of the notice depends on the reason for the eviction. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2
How long does the eviction process take?
As with any legal matter, exact timing is almost impossible to predict as it depends on many factors. Overall, barring any complications, the eviction process, from start to finish, takes approximately 6-8 weeks from the time the Complaint is filed.
How do I tell if my tenant has “skipped” out of the apartment?
Oftentimes it is best to look for the obvious, such as removal of personal goods, whether or not the tenant has come back to the premises at any time during a one week period, and simply no food in the refrigerator. It’s extremely important to document all of the “proof” gathered in order to determine abandonment. When in doubt, if payment of rent has not been made, the landlord may always file for eviction.
What should I do if a tenant vacates and abandons property in the apartment?
A landlord may dispose of a tenant’s personal property after: giving written notice to the tenants in accordance with the requirements of the Abandoned Property Act concerning content, delivery and storage; and a warrant for removal has been executed and possession of the property returned to the landlord; or the tenant has given written notice that he or she is relinquishing possession of the premises. The notice to the tenant must state that the tenant has thirty three days to claim the property or the property may be sold at a private or public sale or destroyed if the landlord reasonably determines that the value of the property is so low that the cost of conducting a sale would exceed the amount that would be realized from the sale.
The landlord must make the property available one day, one time to the tenant without payment by the tenant of any unpaid rent. However, the tenant is responsible for reimbursing the landlord for the reasonable costs of removing and storing the property. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-72 through 2A:18-84.
What can I do if my tenant files for bankruptcy?
The procedures you should take will be determined by bankruptcy court laws. Since the bankruptcy rules were changed in 2005, a bankruptcy will not stay an eviction if a judgment has already been obtained. United States Bankruptcy Code, section 362(b)(22). However, if a judgment has not yet been obtained, a landlord should proceed with a Motion for Relief from the Automatic Stay once the tenant fails to pay for post-petition rents. This is a complicated procedure and warrants at least a consult with an attorney.
Do I have the right to enforce a no smoking policy in my rental property?
A landlord may establish a “No Smoking” policy by writing one into the lease
Do I have to give the tenant notice before I enter the rental property?
Yes, a landlord must give written notice to a tenant before entering the unit. Typically one day’s notice is sufficient if the landlord wishes to make repairs or inspect the unit. In the case of a safety or structural emergency, no notice needs to be given. N.J.A.C. 5:10-5.1(c). No statute obligates a tenant to allow access to the landlord for the purpose of re-renting the unit, so that issue should be addressed in the terms of the lease.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein is intended as a general discussion of legal issues concerning landlord tenant law. Information provided is not legal advice or a legal opinion, and it is recommended that the reader seek independent counsel for any specific issue.