New Jersey landlords are in a unique situation right now. With the COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of everyone’s new normal, there’s a moratorium on New Jersey evictions and foreclosures. The governor signed this executive order on March 19, 2020, and it will be in effect for at least 60 days.
Outside of the current crisis, New Jersey tenants have a number of rights that you need to understand and respect if you’re going to rent out a property in New Jersey. We’re explaining those today and offering our help if you’re unsure about what you need to do to stay in compliance.
Fair Housing Laws and Discrimination
The federal Fair Housing Act protects seven classes of people from discrimination when they’re renting or attempting to rent a property. You cannot deny an application or treat a current tenant differently based on:
- Family status
- National origin
The state of New Jersey goes a bit further. Landlords who are renting out property in this state are also prohibited from discriminating against tenants based on pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, and other personal traits.
If you’re found to violate fair housing laws, your first offense will cost you $16,000. Obviously, you can choose the tenant who qualifies based on your rental criteria, but you need to treat each application and each resident consistently. Otherwise, you face expensive penalties.
Notice Periods and Security Deposits
When it comes to security deposits, there are strict timelines and requirements. The deposit you collect from your tenant cannot be more than the equivalent of one and a half month’s rent. You’ll need to return a tenant’s security deposit within 30 days of the move-out date. When you’re withholding some or all of that deposit to cover property damage or past due rent, you still need to send your tenant a detailed accounting of what the security deposit was spent on. If you don’t meet this requirement, you can be required to pay the tenant even more than the deposit amount, even if they left your property in shambles.
Habitability Laws and New Jersey Tenants
Landlords are required to provide safe and habitable properties for their tenants. Make sure you understand your local property codes and comply with them. If a tenant notifies you of a repair that affects habitability, you are required to treat it as an emergency and take care of it right away. You cannot wait to address a heating problem in the winter and water must be available to the home at all times.
This is just an overview of tenants’ rights in New Jersey. If you have any questions about how the law applies to you and your rental property, please contact us at the offices of Robert A. Gleaner, P.C. We’d be happy to assist you and provide more resources.