Both landlords and tenants should be able to deal with many legal questions and problems without a lawyer, once they understand the basics of state law. This overview of key landlord-tenant laws in New Jersey will get you started.
Under New Jersey law, landlords must disclose specific information to tenants (usually in the lease or rental agreement). Required disclosures include:
New Jersey state law limits how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit (one- and one-half month's rent for the first year, and no more than 10% of the current security deposit for each additional annual deposit), when it must be returned (within 30 days after a tenant moves, or within five days in case of fire, flood, condemnation, or evacuation), and sets other restrictions on deposits. See New Jersey Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines for more on the subject.
Tenants can sue landlords in small claims court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $5,000. See Filing a Security Deposit Lawsuit in New Jersey Small Claims Court for advice for tenants filing suit. Landlords defending a security deposit lawsuit should check out New Jersey Landlord's Guide to Security Deposit Disputes in Small Claims Court.
State law regulates several rent-related issues, including late fees, the amount of notice (at least 30 days in New Jersey) landlords must give tenants to raise the rent and how much time (30 days in New Jersey) a tenant has to pay overdue rent or move before a landlord can file for eviction. For details, see New Jersey Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules.
Tenants may withhold rent or exercise the right to "repair and deduct" if a landlord fails to take care of important repairs, such as a broken heater. For specifics, see New Jersey Tenant Rights to Withhold Rent or "Repair and Deduct".
State laws specify when and how a landlord may terminate a tenancy. For example, a landlord may give a New Jersey tenant who has assaulted or threatened the landlord an unconditional quit notice that gives the tenant three days to move out before the landlord can file for eviction. See State Laws on Unconditional Quit Terminations and State Laws on Termination for Violation of Lease for details on these types of termination notices in New Jersey.
Several other landlord-tenant laws in New Jersey affect both property owners and renters, including:
If you want to read the text of a law itself, such as state security deposit rules, you'll find citations in many of the articles and charts included in the State Landlord-Tenant Laws section of the Nolo site. Nolo's article on laws and legal research will guide you on how to research and locate federal, state, and local laws.
If you just want to browse through the New Jersey landlord-tenant law, you can find state statutes at N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 46:8-1 to 46:8-50; 2a:42-1 to 42-96. You can search the table of contents for the landlord-tenant statutes. Or, if you don't know the exact statute number, you can enter a keyword that is likely to be in it, such as "nonpayment of rent."
In addition to accessing state laws via Nolo's website, New Jersey statutes are available in many public libraries and in most law libraries that are open to the public (typically found in a county courthouse or at the state capitol or in a publicly-funded law school).
Cities and counties often pass local ordinances, such as rent control rules, health and safety standards, noise and nuisance regulations, and antidiscrimination rules that affect landlords and tenants. Many municipalities have websites —just search for the name of a particular city in New Jersey and then do a search when you're on the site.
State and Local Government on the Net and Municode are good sources for finding local governments online. Also, your local public library or office of the city attorney, mayor, or city or county manager can provide information on local ordinances that affect landlords and tenants in New Jersey.
While most landlords and tenants will primarily be concerned with state law in New Jersey, several federal laws come into play. Congress has enacted laws, and federal agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have adopted regulations, covering discrimination and landlord responsibilities to disclose environmental health hazards, such as lead-based paint.
The U.S. Code is the starting place for most federal statutory research. It consists of 54 separate numbered titles, each covering a specific subject matter. Most federal regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations ("CFR"), also organized by subject into 50 separate titles.
Nolo's Laws and Legal Research page includes links to state and federal laws, explains how to research and understand statutes, and provides advice on finding local ordinances and court cases, including Supreme Court cases. To go further, check out Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law, by Stephen Elias (Nolo). This nontechnical book gives easy-to-use, step-by-step instructions on how to find legal information.
You'll also find a wealth of information in the Landlords & Tenants and Renters' & Tenants' Rights sections of the Nolo website and Nolo books, such as Every Landlord's Legal Guide and Every Tenant's Legal Guide.