As in all states, New Jersey landlords must comply with state law when preparing leases and rental agreements, such as how much notice you must give to end or change a rental agreement (30 days under New Jersey law). And if you own rental property in one of the hundred New Jersey communities with rent control, additional rules will apply.
Here are some of the most important items to cover in your New Jersey lease or rental agreement.
Every adult who lives in the rental unit, including both members of a married or unmarried couple, should be named as tenants and sign the lease or rental agreement. This makes each tenant legally responsible for all terms, including the full amount of the rent and the proper use of the property.
Every New Jersey rental document should state whether it is a rental agreement or a fixed-term lease. Here's the difference:
Your lease or rental agreement should provide specific details on the rent, including the amount; when rent is due (typically, the first of the month); whether there's any grace period; and forms of rent payment and delivery method. If you own rental property in one of the many New Jersey communities with rent control, you may need to include additional information in your lease or rental agreement.
Many landlords charge a fee for a bounced rent check or a late fee if rent is not paid on time. Your lease or rental agreement is the place to spell out the details. New Jersey landlords who charge a late fee must give tenants receiving certain benefits, such as Social Security Disability, a five-day grace period before imposing the late fee.
To avoid confusion and legal hassles with tenants over deposits, your lease or rental agreement should be clear on all the details. Here are the major ones:
The dollar amount of the deposit and when and how you will return it. New Jersey limits the amount you may collect to one and one-half times the monthly rent.
Use of the deposit, such as to cover unpaid rent. It's also a good idea to spell out how the tenant may not use the deposit (such as applying it to last month's rent).
Security deposit interest and accounts. New Jersey landlords must disclose the name and address of the bank where the deposit will be held, the type of account, and the rate of interest (the specific rules vary depending on the number of rental properties you own).
State security deposit rules do not apply to owner-occupied properties with three or fewer units (unless the tenant gives the landlord 30 days' notice invoking the above security deposit protections).
Your best defense against tenant rent-withholding and other hassles is to clearly set out responsibilities for repairs and maintenance in your lease or rental agreement, including:
To avoid tenant claims of illegal entry or violation of privacy rights, your lease or rental agreement should clarify your legal right of access to the property -- for example, to make repairs -- and state how much advance notice you will provide the tenant before entering. In buildings containing three apartments or more, you must give one day's notice before entering to inspect or make repairs. New Jersey doesn't specify the notice period for other properties.
It's a good idea to include an explicit lease or rental agreement clause prohibiting disruptive behavior, such as excessive noise, and illegal activity, such as drug dealing. This well help you avoid trouble among your tenants, prevent property damage, and limit your exposure to lawsuits from residents and neighbors.
If you do not allow pets, be sure your lease or rental agreement is clear on the subject. If you do allow pets, you should identify any special restrictions, such as a limit on the size or number of pets.
Federal law require landlords to make certain lead-based paint disclosures before tenants move in. New Jersey also imposes additional requirements, including disclosure of whether the rental is in a flood area and a statement of the legal rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in New Jersey. (Some smaller landlords and owner-occupied rental properties are exempt from these state disclosure requirements).
Be sure your lease or rental agreement complies with all relevant state and local New Jersey laws including health and safety codes, occupancy rules, and antidiscrimination laws. If you own rent-controlled property, be sure to check your local ordinance for special rules that apply to leases and rental agreements.
In all cases, be sure your lease or rental agreement spells out any additional provisions that are unique to your agreement—such as rules and regulations covering parking and use of common areas.
For New Jersey rental documents, including leases and rental agreements, see the Real Estate and Rental Property Forms section of Nolo. These ready-to-use legal forms include detailed, clause-by-clause instructions that cover the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants in New Jersey. Options include the following: