New Jersey landlord-tenant laws protect all parties involved when renting a residence or commercial property. Written communication is the most consistent problem between landlords and tenants. You must document everything in writing to protect yourself from the other party. In court cases, a lack of documentation will often end a matter prematurely. New Jersey courts are particular about what they require for notices. You can spend a lot of time in court only to have the case dismissed because the notices were not properly filed or filled out.
The lease should always be in writing. The New Jersey code requires the landlord to indicate exactly who owns the property and what address the tenant should use to mail notices. We always recommend that landlords include all of the tenants in the lease. If they rent is not paid, you can go after each individual tenant for the entire amount of the lease. The lease should include the tenants’ responsibility for the property, such as lawn mowing and garbage. New Jersey law requires the landlord give the tenant a copy of the New Jersey state code. Make sure you have evidence that you included the code with the lease.
The termination of a lease requires a 60-day notice. You should contact the tenant and set up a time to go through the unit and do an inspection. When conducting an inspection, take photos and document any damages caused by the tenant. Landlords are required to get an estimate for damages and send the tenant a 20-day letter detailing any problems with the unit, the cost for repair to the tenant, and if they are going to take a portion or all of their security deposit to fix it. You must be very specific about the damages and send the tenant any money still owed after damages, if any. You could be fined double the rent if you don’t send the 20-day letter.
The 5-day letter is designed to tell the tenant that they are late on rent, exactly what is past due, and what will happen if they do not pay within five days. If you are not detailed about what is owed, you may not be able to recover anything in court. If the tenant does not pay, you should seek possession of the property. You will tell the court that you want to terminate the lease and evict the occupants. Finally, give the notice of possession to the tenant. The code requires that you notify them by certified mail or hand delivery. Hand delivery is always best.
If a tenant breaches the lease, New Jersey law requires the landlord to give a seven-day notice to fix the problem or they will go to court and try to seek possession of the unit. The letter must specify the provision of the lease or code that was breached and indicate that the tenant has seven days to resolve the problem. If the tenant does not solve the problem, you may file for possession with the court.
Landlords frequently ask us if they can shut off the water or electricity if they are in dispute with a tenant. The answer is always no. Landlords are not allowed to take retaliatory acts against any tenants. You could be subject to three times the rent as a penalty if the tenant files a legitimate complaint with the county or some other governmental agency.
In New Jersey, circumstances dictate how long it will take to evict a tenant. For example, owed rent requires the five-day notice and the subsequent complaint filed with the court. The court will determine whether or not you can have possession of the property and get the tenant out. If you are granted possession of the property and they won’t vacate, you must request that the Sherriff post notification stating that the tenant has 24 hours to vacate the property. The Sherriff will come to physically remove them if they are still present.
If you need to sue the tenant for damages while the lease is still active, you must give the tenant 48 hours to come into the property, document the damages, and file paperwork with the court detailing the damages. Damages can also be fixed and added to the monthly rent with the proper notification and paperwork. If the lease has ended, you will follow the procedure for a 20-day letter. Speak with an attorney at Mattleman, Weinroth & Miller, P.C. if you have any question or need a consultation.