Landlord Tenant Disputes
In New York and New Jersey, there are laws governing many aspects of the landlord tenant relationship. From required disclosures to eviction procedures, it is imperative that both landlords and tenants understand the legal characteristics of leases and rental agreements. At Larkin Farrell, we are experienced in both New York and New Jersey landlord tenant laws and are prepared to guide you through all the details and particulars of potential real estate disputes.
An eviction is a court process through which a landlord can remove a tenant from a rented property. Evictions are governed by strict laws in New York and New Jersey; the landlord must have good cause for the eviction, and must provide the tenant with proper notice and documentation before proceeding.
Under What Circumstances Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?
A landlord can attempt to evict a tenant with cause if:
- The tenant has failed to pay rent.
- The tenant is consistently late in paying rent.
- The tenant has violated the terms of the lease.
- The tenant has regularly engaged in disorderly conduct.
- The tenant has damaged or destroyed property.
- The tenant has been convicted of a drug or other criminal charge.
The landlord must first give a Notice to Quit to the tenant prior to filing for an eviction if the tenant has not corrected their behavior. The amount of time required between the Notice to Quit and the eviction filing varies depending on the infraction. The exception is failure to pay rent in New Jersey does not require notice as long as the landlord has not habitually accepted late rent.
If the landlord has no legal reason to evict then they must wait until the end of the tenancy. Month-to-month tenancy requires a one month notice while fixed term leases require no notice unless specified in the terms of the lease.
It is important to know that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without first going to court and obtaining a court order known as a Warrant of Eviction. It is illegal for a landlord to try to force a tenant out by turning off the utilities, changing the locks or any other means of restricting or prohibiting the tenant from entering or living in the property. This is sometimes called a ‘self-help’ eviction. If a landlord attempts this, the tenant can take legal action against them, and it can severely hurt the landlord’s chances of legally evicting the tenant and may result in severe penalties against the landlord. Only a law enforcement officer (in New Jersey) or the sheriff (in New York) can actually remove a tenant from a rental unit.
Required Landlord Disclosures
By law, landlords are required to disclose certain things to potential tenants as part of the lease or rental agreement. This includes things like smoking policies, whether the unit in question is in a flood zone, local rent control rules and details on security deposits.
Right to Withhold Rent
Tenants can either withhold rent or exercise “repair and deduct” if the landlord fails to perform important repairs to the rental unit such as broken utilities.
Tenant Protection Against Retaliation
Both New Jersey and New York have laws that protect tenants from retaliatory behavior by landlords. A tenant exercising their legal rights includes the following:
- The ability to complain to a government agency about unsafe living conditions.
- The right to assemble and present collective views.
- The right to withhold rent.
Any attempt to terminate a tenancy or refusal to renew a lease, sudden rent hike or decrease in services as a result of a tenant using their legal rights in highly illegal, however it can be difficult to prove that retaliation is actually taking place. You’ll want to talk to a lawyer about the possibility of a successful case.
Rules Regarding Security Deposit Limits and Return
In New Jersey, the law limits how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. This amount is one and one-half month’s rent for the first year and no more than 10% of the security deposit for each additional annual deposit. This deposit also has a time limit on when the landlord must return the deposit. If the tenant moves, the return must happen within 30 days of the move. In the case of a fire, flood, condemnation or evacuation, the return period is five days.
New York has no limit on the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit. They must disclose what financial institution holds the deposit if it is placed in a bank. New York law states that, in the case of the surrender of the property, the landlord must return the deposit to the tenant within a “reasonable timeframe.” This is usually within a period of 21-45 days.
Small Claims Court Lawsuits
In New Jersey, lawsuits over the return of a security deposit with take place in small claims court for an amount of up to $5,000. Whether you are a tenant filing suit or a landlord looking for help with a solid defense, Larkin Farrell has knowledge of both sides of security deposit cases.
In New York, the court where tenants can sue landlords is dependant on what part of the state you are in. For those located in New York City, the case will go to the small claims section of civil court. In New York Small Claims Court, tenants can sue for up to $5,000. Larkin Farrell has represented both tenants and landlords in these cases, so you can feel confident in our expertise.
Need a Landlord Tenant Lawyer?
When it comes to landlord tenant disputes, Larkin Farrell are prepared to bring years of experience and success to your case. We serve tenants and landlords throughout the five boroughs of New York City as well as Staten Island and Long Island. And from our offices in Red Bank, New Jersey, we handle cases all over Monmouth County. So if you need help with an eviction, small claims dispute or other legal disagreement, Larkin Farrell has the expertise to get you a successful resolution.