Trying to navigate the multitude of federal and state laws regarding housing and tenancy in New Jersey can make a landlord’s head spin. While some issues may seem like a simple matter of common sense, others are surprisingly unintuitive. Whether you have a single property for rent or a thriving business, here are the top five legal responsibilities that should be on your radar.
Implied warranty of habitability
According to the New Jersey court system, the moment you offer a property on the rental market, you are implying that your property is habitable in a legal sense. The state provides guidance on what this means and how situations can be remedied by either the landlord or the tenant. For example, if you control the temperature at your rental property, it’s important to note the requirements outlined here, so you stay in compliance with the law.
In the event that your property sustains damage, you may be liable for a rent reduction depending on the nature of the repairs needed and the length of time it takes to make those repairs. There are several options and special riders for homeowners insurance in New Jersey that can help you recoup potential losses due to damage, theft, or vandalism, so you can keep your business on track and avoid legal issues with tenants.
Discrimination and the Truth In Renting Act
Once you’ve advertised your property for rent, it’s important to make sure all your communications (including phone calls and advertisements) remain in compliance with the Fair Housing Act and several other laws that prohibit discrimination against certain protected classes of people. This includes, but is not limited to, race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, nationality, and through other statutes, age.
While you may wish to protect your property from damage, it is illegal to prohibit families with young children, college-aged males, or members of a religious group for example. Additionally, New Jersey has enacted several policies including the Truth in Renting Act, which landlords must give to all potential tenants prior to entering into a legal agreement for a term longer than one month.
Certificate of registration
New Jersey law requires you to file a certificate of registration within 30 days of each new lease that provides property details as well as the name and contact information for the property owner, the janitor, and other people party to the lease. Failure to do so can result in fines for each missing registration, which can quickly add up if you manage a multi-unit complex.
Lease and security deposit
The overhaul of the New Jersey Landlord Tenant Act includes provisions for leases as well as what must be done with a tenant’s security deposit. Even if you intend to have an informal or verbal lease agreement with a tenant, there are requirements for basic lease details, and limits to the amount a landlord can demand for deposits. There are also restrictions on where the money can be held in escrow during the term of the lease, and the length of time it may take to return the money at the end of the lease. Many landlords use specific landlord software that helps them keep track of expenses and manage income, deposits, renewals, and more to help them reduce the potential for liability due to poor recordkeeping.
Comply with legal communication regulations
Finally, whenever you must enter the property or provide a legal notice to tenants, you must comply with legal timeframes and required verbiage. Luckily, though the laws in New Jersey are comprehensive, the state provides several resources to help landlords remain in compliance and out of the court system.