Summer rentals have a rich history at the Jersey Shore. Annually, scores of New Jersey residents and out of state visitors make annual pilgrimages to the resort and beach towns up and down the Jersey Coast, from Sandy Hook to Cape May, during the unofficial summer season, Memorial Day to Labor Day. While some have second homes, many more visitors enter into short term rental agreements to use and occupy private homes. The length of summer rentals can range from a single week to a full season and prices range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, or more. The summer rental has been a tradition for generations, with many families renting the same residence during the same period year after year.
Traditionally, vacationers would call or head to a local real estate agency, where they would meet with a real estate professional and, after choosing their temporary beach house, enter into a short-term rental agreement or lease. Hopeful renters have been known to start their search for the perfect summer rental as early as November, if not during the previous summer. It is not uncommon for renters to sign leases and pay for summer rentals months before the season. Now, COVID-19 may impact the 2020 summer rental season as some renters look to cancel their leases. One issue that is being raised repeatedly, is if a renter cancels their lease, are they entitled to a full refund?
Though short-term rental agreements vary between real estate agencies, many contain similar cancellation clauses that require the property to be re-rented before any deposit is returned. On March 21, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 2020-108 (amended by NJSP OEM Administrative Order 2020-8) which allows municipalities and counties to restrict the ability of private residences to accept seasonal tenants after Sunday, April 5, 2020. Many local governments have passed such restrictions. A restriction on new leases prevents previously rented units from being re-rented.
Absent clarifying orders or regulations, the determination of whether a refund is required is uncertain and may be decided on a case by case basis based on the interpretation of the specific terms contained in the lease agreement, state statute and case law. If you are a renter who has a question about how your lease has been affected by these changes or a property owner who may be affected by these changes, it is best to speak to an attorney regarding protecting your rights. Contact Carluccio, Leone, Dimon, Doyle, and Sacks, L.L.C. with any questions and for further information about seasonal and 2020 summer rentals.
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