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Top 4 Landlord/Tenant Questions Asked By Clients

May 9, 2012

1. The term of a residential lease agreement is over, is the landlord allowed to evict the tenant?

If the parties do not agree to renew the lease, same converts to a month to month tenancy. As such, on that basis alone, a residential tenant cannot be evicted if they are protected by the NJ Anti-Eviction Act. This act provides that a residential tenant may not be evicted except for the following reasons: non-payment of rent, violation of lease rules and covenants, habitual late payment of rent, owner occupancy and certain enumerated criminal offenses. A landlord can, however, make reasonable changes to the lease terms including the amount of rent on the anniversary date.

2. If a tenant leaves behind personal property, can the landlord keep it?

Pursuant to the Abandoned Property Act, landlords are required to provide notice to the tenant as well as store and protect that property for 30 days following the eviction or vacancy of the premises. The abandoned property may be removed from the premises to a storage unit. All costs for storing and protecting any property are the responsibility of the tenant. Thirty days following the notice, the landlord may sell, keep or dispose of the abandoned property. The profits from any sales can be applied towards the balance of any unpaid rent. Failure to provide notice to a tenant may result in action by the tenant for loss or damage to their personal property. The Abandoned Property Act does not apply to commercial tenancies if there is a provision in the lease providing for the disposition of the tenant’s property at the end of the lease.

3. Is a landlord able to lock-out a tenant and/or retain their personal property?

Only in some very limited situations is a landlord able to do so. Holding property as security for payment of debt is considered distraint and the landlord can end up being sued by the tenant. New Jersey permits distraint when authorized by law for commercial tenancies only.

4. Can a residential tenant live rent free in a unit that is illegal or not permitted under zoning?

A tenant is not allowed to receive a windfall by being permitted to reside in a premises, whether or not the unit is illegal, rent free. A tenant may be permitted an abatement, but they are not entitled to live rent free, especially if the premises is habitable. However, the landlord may be required to pay reasonable relocation assistance to the tenant if the town has an ordinance requiring there be assistance to the tenant if they are evicted due to illegal occupancy.

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