29 Dec Make Sure Your Rights Aren’t Violated – NJ Landlord/Legal Issues
As a landlord in New Jersey, you may think tenants have all the rights, and you have none. We have all heard the horror stories of tenants remaining in possession of a property for months, even years, without paying rent. And it is true that in my twenty years of practicing law, I have yet to hear of a proposed law to protect a landlord against a tenant. However, this does not mean that it’s impossible for landlords to protect themselves. A landlord that knows their rights can take steps to avoid making very costly and potential criminal mistakes.
This begins with a thorough background check of potential tenants. Chances are if the tenant has been evicted before, has poor credit, or can only give their mother as a reference, at some point they aren’t going to pay the rent. Be sure to focus on an applicant’s finacial history and steer clear of other issues that could violate the tenants state and federal laws against discrimination, such as age, having children, disabilities and race. Illegally discriminating against a tenant not only can cost a landlord tens of thousands of dollars, but in some instances be considered criminal.
Once you find a qualified tenant (without illegally discriminating) a quality lease, written by someone well versed in New Jersey landlord tenant law is a must. The lease is the one place a landlord can attempt to level the legal playing field (which the New Jersey legislature has slanted in tenants’ favor). It goes without saying a thorough knowledge of what a landlord can and cannot require of a tenant in the lease is the first step drafting a lease and always be sure you understand what you are signing before you sign it.
After a lease has been executed, a landlord must be aware what the law allows and what must be done to protect their rights. There are things that must be done immediately, for instance a landlord must give notice to the tenant where the security deposit is being held within 30 days. A landlord must also understand that their rights to enter the leased property is severely diminished once a tenant takes possession. I have represented more than one landlord charged with trespassing into apartments they own. In New Jersey ownership does not equate a right of possession. When it comes to New Jersey tenancy law, possession is nine-point-nine-tenths of the law. Don’t find out the hard way.
Being a landlord in New Jersey can be extremely lucrative. I, myself, own quite a few rental properties, and truly believe, outside of buying Google and Apple stock 10 years ago, they are the best investment around. But a landlord cannot go in blind. The consequences of making a mistake as a landlord in New Jersey are too dire. If you are al landlord and don’t know the law, find someone who does and talk to them.
At Weishoff & Richards, our lawyers have over 50 years of experience handling landlord/tenant legal issues. In that time there isn’t much we haven’t seen or done. From dealing with discrimination, and drafting New Jersey specific lease clauses, to dealing with non-paying and unruly tenants, are business is built on helping landlords protect their rights. Feel free to call today for a consultation and learn what you can do to protect your rights.