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Articles Tagged with “Tenant’s Rights”

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Many form leases (from sites like LegalZoom or RocketLawyer) contain stock terms designed to apply to most landlord-tenant relationships. Unfortunately, New Jersey landlord-tenant law and the facts of a commercial landlord-tenant relationship rarely lend themselves to “canned” contract terms. One overly (and rarely correctly) used contract term requires the tenant to comply with “all laws.” The sentence: “The tenant shall comply with all laws” begs the question: When has the tenant failed to comply with all laws? In a recent case, the Firm successfully defended a commercial tenant from a landlord’s aggressive interpretation of the “comply with all laws” requirement.
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New Jersey landlord-tenant actions (a/k/a “summary dispossession actions”) are designed to be quick, efficient methods of disposing of landlord-tenant disputes. The efficiency of a landlord-tenant case lies in the prohibition of responsive pleadings and the “No Discovery” rule. NJ Court Rule 6:4-3 provides that interrogatories and other discovery methods are applicable in all actions except “summary landlord and tenant actions for recovery of the premises.” The “No Discovery” rule poses a problem for landlords alleging wrongful conduct (for example, damage to the apartment or violation of lease rules) by the tenant. How does a landlord prove wrongful conduct? How does a tenant defend against an allegation of wrongful conduct?
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Local rent control laws are an important part of maintaining an affordable housing supply in densely populated areas. Prior posts explained the basics of rent control and some nuances between cities. Generally, tenants who pay rent in excess of the rent control rent (the “legal rent”) have two remedies. The first is an application to the local rent control board (sometimes called a rent leveling board) for a credit. The credit allows a tenant to pay a reduced rent going forward until the tenant “catches up” with the overcharge. The second remedy is much more powerful. Violations of rent control ordinances are actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”). Under the CFA, a rent control overcharge may entitle a tenant to triple damages and mandatory attorney’s fees. The principle that a rent control violation is also a consumer fraud violation comes from an Appellate Division decision called Wozniak v. Pennella, 373 N.J. Super. 445 (App. Div. 2004).
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Rent-control ordinances across New Jersey control the legal rent a landlord is entitled to from each rental unit. Most rent-control ordinances provide landlords an opportunity to raise the rent between tenants. As noted in a prior post, Jersey City’s rent-control ordinance does not provide for such “vacancy decontrol.” The absence of vacancy decontrol raises interesting questions in the context of eviction for nonpayment proceedings. To what extent must a landlord show compliance with rent control when alleging a tenant failed to pay rent “due and owing?” If the Landlord can’t show compliance with rent control should the complaint be dismissed? These questions came up in a case in Hudson County a short time ago. The outcome has important implications for tenants and landlords across New Jersey.
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New Jersey is one of only four states that provide for rent control. Jersey City is one of 98 municipalities that enacted local rent-control laws. While Hoboken and Bayonne recently relaxed their rent-control ordinances, Jersey City maintains one of the State’s strongest rent-control laws. Jersey City tenants should aware of the most important part of Jersey City’s rent-control laws.
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Hurricane Sandy left an unprecedented amount of damage throughout New Jersey. Many apartments were damaged by flood, wind and other storm damage. Unfortunately, some apartments were totally destroyed. Parts 1 and 2 of this series explained tenants’ rights when an apartment is damaged. Tenants’ rights are much different when an apartment is so damaged it is destroyed. In these cases, an old statute can be a useful tool.
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Part 1 of this series described the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants under the warranty of habitability. Marini explains that a landlord implicitly promises to provide an apartment free of latent defects and maintained in a livable condition. While tenants have a right to a regularly maintained defect free apartment, they also have an obligation to inform the landlords of any problems and allow sufficient time for those problems to be fixed. In most cases, the repairs are made and both parties are happy. If the problems continue, tenants have a number of options to consider.
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Super Storm Sandy left permanent marks on New York and New Jersey. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those who suffered a loss. During difficult times, understanding accomplishes far more than contention. This is especially true when peoples’ property and homes are at stake. Both landlords and tenants have certain rights and responsibilities when a property is damaged by a storm. Many times, understanding each position can resolve storm damage disputes quickly and amicably.
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