Tenant rights according to NJ Landlord Tenant Law
Tenants are legally defined as persons who are granted permission by a landlord to temporarily utilize his or her land or part of his or her building in exchange for rent. The role of a tenant comes with certain duties and responsibilities accompanied by legal rights which cannot be acted against by anyone, even by the landlord. The following text is derived from the New Jersey Landlord Tenant Law and summarizes the key elements of the law.
The primary right of any tenant is to have safe and decent housing. This includes adequate water supply with reasonable water costs; appropriate heating system; sufficient kitchen area with sink and proper facilities for the installation of a refrigerator; structural elements that are in good condition which includes doors, walls, windows, ceilings, as well as staircases, porches, chimneys and garage if applicable. It is the duty of the landlord to provide these basic facilities and non- inclusion of these should be clearly indicated in the contract so as to give full knowledge to the tenant of the condition of the house or property he is about to rent.
Rights against Unlawful Entry
Just like in any other state, it is the right of the tenant to choose whomever he or she wishes to allow entry inside their rented premises. The moment the two parties, the tenant and the landlord, agreed on the contract and signed the necessary legal documents the landlord has temporarily surrendered his rights to the tenant. If he or she wishes to inspect the premises, make repairs, and show the property to future tenant, mortgagee, purchaser or agents then he or she should seek permission from the tenant when this is possible. Unless allowed by the tenant, no entry can be made on the properly unless ordered by the court.
Right to Privacy
Right to privacy is honored not only in the State of New Jersey but in almost every other state. This is closely related to the tenant’s right to unlawful entry since this right gives the tenant exclusive possession of the rental unit. He or she has full authority to do whatever he wishes to do within the premises of his rented property as long as it is in accordance with the contract agreement. This right is honored in writing through the New Jersey Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment of 1991.
Moreover, if the landlord wishes to check the condition of their property for whatever reason; the request has to be made in writing and should be received at least 30 days prior to the intended entry of the landlord to the rental unit. The time and date should be indicated and should not be scheduled during holidays and religious observances. Any entry request that falls on an unreasonable time and date will be subject to the discretion of the tenant. If the landlord proceeds with the entry without the permission of the tenant then he or she may be subject to appropriate legal consequences provided by the court.
Note however that the landlord is allowed entry to the rented unit during cases of emergency, such as flood and fire.
Right against Eviction
New Jersey Law requires a proper written notification to be delivered and received by the tenant from the landlord no less than four days from the intended date of eviction. If the tenant failed to receive the eviction notice despite insistence by the landlord that they did deliver such a notice then the case will be subject to relevant court proceedings. When this happens then you will need the assistance of a highly skilled lawyer who can defend you in court.
A few of the grounds which may be honored by the court as sufficient reason for eviction are as follow: disorderly conduct which disrupts the peace of the neighborhood, particularly your immediate neighbor; violation of lease agreement, illegal activities like illegal use of drugs; non-payment of rent and intentional destruction of rental property. So unless you have done any of these violations, your landlord has no right to evict you from the rented property.
Included in the scope of Eviction Rights is the illegal cut-off of heat and water. Heat should be duly provided for to the tenant during October 1st until May 1st or whenever the outdoor temperature drops below forty (40) degrees Fahrenheit. Landlords should see to it that the temperature of the rented property is maintained at sixty five (65) degrees Fahrenheit or warmer otherwise this is enough ground for tenants to file a complaint to the HUD Department of New Jersey. Additionally, they have no right to remove tenant belongings, change locks, bar tenants from leaving or entering the property or harass tenants just to force them to evict the property. Any illegal actions by the landlord should be reported and is subject to lengthy jail time if proven true in court.
If you receive a notice of eviction but cannot meet the terms of eviction then do your best to vacate the property within six months or less to avoid additional legal worries. However if you received summons, then you need to seek legal representation to assist you with this matter. Moreover, every tenant should be aware that it is against the New Jersey Tenant Protection Laws for the landlord to begin the process of eviction without providing the tenant prior notice. There are many other complex legal processes involved in the process of eviction so it is worth it to have a trusted legal team of experts who can provide you with the best and most effective strategy that can protect your rights and interest.
Rights against Retaliation
Both tenant and landlord have the right to terminate tenancy in accordance the legal rights of both parties. Nevertheless, if the landlord tries to increase the rent or force you to terminate the contract after you have reported inconveniences in violation of your habitability right then the law has full authority to protect you against this type of retaliation. The burden of proof will rest on the shoulders of your landlord to show reasonable evidence to declare sudden change in agreement with your tenancy.
Right to Withhold Rent
It is the responsibility of the landlord to maintain the efficiency of their rented property. If the tenant realizes that one of the areas needed to be repaired then they have the right to inform the landlord of the issue so he or she may carry out the necessary repairs. However, if the necessary repairs require immediate action then tenants have the right to do the necessary repair themselves and deduct the costs incurred from future rent as long as it meets the following conditions:
- The local Board of Health or enforcement agency certifies the need for the repair due to risk of health and safety hazards.
- The landlord has received written notice of the existing violation but failed to respond to it after the specified date provided in the notification.
- You have provided the receipts of all the repairs conducted and have showed these expenses as reasonable.
If the tenant does decide to withhold the rent due to the landlord’s inability to proceed with the non-immediate repairs that are necessary for the prevention of accidents and health hazards; after the landlord complies with the reasonable request for repair the tenant is obligated to pay the all the withheld rent otherwise the tenant may be subject to tenancy violations.
It is wise to keep good records of your payments as well as your complaints. Make sure you keep track of the dates when you requested any repairs. Make copies of written correspondences you gave to the landlord and other important events that are relevant to your stay in the rented property. All of these documents will be helpful in case you are ever forced to face court proceedings. However, ensure legal preparations are taken care of lawyers who are well experienced in this field of real estate law and litigation. Trust only a firm that has a track record of handling cases in reference to this matter.
Sammarro & Zalarick, P.A. have over 40 years combined experience working with landlords and tenants in and around Garfield, New Jersey so can expertly assist with any matter relating to landlord and tenant disputes.
For any landlord/tenant matters which involve Wrongful Evictions, Tenant Rights, Draft Leases, Lease Violations, Quit Notices and Cease Order Notices as well as representation for landlord/tenant disputes do not hesitate to Contact Us Online or call our office at 1-973-478-1026 for a free initial consultation and case evaluation.