New Jersey landlords face a complicated regulatory jungle. In addition to the stringent requirements of the Anti-Eviction Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:81-61.1 et. seq.), Landlords must also comply with the NJ Department of Community Affairs and local housing code enforcement. In Northern New Jersey, many cities (Jersey City, West New York etc.) adopted the International Property Maintenance Code and rely on housing/building code departments to enforce it. Like most laws, the International Property Maintenance Code (the “IPMC”) was designed with the best intentions. In practice, the IPMC can be abused by tenants trying to create a reason to withhold rent. Professional landlords should have a familiarity with the IPMC to avoid being dragged into a municipal quagmire by a tenant.
Municipal housing/property code citations begin with the Notice of Violation required by the IPMC (the “Notice”). In many ways, the Notice is the most important part in contesting municipal habitability violation. The citing authority (the building department or housing code enforcement) must ensure the Notice follows the IPMC. If it does not, the habitability citations are subject to appeal.
Section 104 of the IMPC requires that the “Notice of Violation” be given to the “personal responsible” for the violation. Specifically, Section 104 requires that “notice shall be given…to the person responsible for the violation…” The IPMC does not say “shall be given to the landlord or property owner.” Instead, it requires that notice be given to the “person responsible.”
It is an unfortunate reality that a disgruntled tenant may damage her apartment intentionally or through neglect. When there is a dispute with the landlord, the tenant will call housing code enforcement and engineer a basis for habitability withholding (also known as a “Marini” Defense). When housing code enforcement notices IPMC violations, the Landlord must ensure that the citations are given “to the person responsible” (as required by the IPMC. When the tenant damages the apartment (intentionally or through neglect), the tenant is responsible for IPMC violation, not the Landlord. Professional NJ landlords should take care to ensure that housing or building code violations are issued to the person responsible for the violation, not simply the property owner.
Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New Jersey assisting landlords and tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County, Bergen County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business.