Legal FAQs for Renters in New Jersey

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on May 1st, 2024. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Problem with your Landlord?

What if I need repairs on my rental home in New Jersey?

Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.

Emergency repairs could be for problems with:

  • Running water or hot water

  • Heat or air conditioning

  • Stove or oven

  • Electricity

  • Bathroom use

  • Missing doors, locks, or windows

  • Pests

If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs and keep a copy of this communication.

Contact your local code enforcement officer in your municipality for further assistance.

Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

Behind on Rent?

Does immigration status matter for rent relief?

Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.

Who can help me with rent that I owe?

If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.

Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.

Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.

Am I eligible for rent relief?

Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.

You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.

You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.

You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in New Jersey. What should I do?

You do not have to leave your home yet. Check whether your notice is legally valid, depending on your situation.

If you live in a private home, and are being evicted for nonpayment of rent:

In New Jersey, your landlord does not have to serve you with a notice stating you must pay your rent or you must vacate. In most cases, the landlord can proceed with eviction for nonpayment of rent by simply filing a complaint for eviction based on nonpayment of rent.

If you live in public housing or federally subsidized housing, and are being evicted for nonpayment of rent:

Your landlord must provide you with a notice that they are terminating your tenancy before they file an eviction complaint in court.

If your landlord is suing you for back rent they say you owe:

If the landlord wants to seek a money judgment against a tenant for rent money owed, then the landlord may file a complaint in the civil division for breach of contract to collect the back rent. The landlord does not need to provide written notice prior to the institution of lawsuit seeking money damages.

For situations when a landlord must give you a notice before filing for eviction, they must follow specific rules to be valid. This warning notice is called a notice to quit. If it doesn't follow these rules, then you can challenge it and stop an eviction.

These are New Jersey’s requirements for a Notice to Quit:

  1. The notice must be written down.

  2. It must explain why you may be evicted -- whether it is for a lease violation, or other reason.

  3. The notice may be: Physically handed to the tenant, Physically handed to someone at the property who is at least 14 years old, or Sent by Certified Mail.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find legal help here.

What if I cannot afford to pay the rent for my home in New Jersey?

Find local financial help at your New Jersey Get Help page.

Be sure to let the local group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is.

They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, you have a minimum of 3 days between your landlord giving you a notice and them filing a lawsuit against you in court to evict you. You will usually have much longer to pay back your rent - you can even pay the day of your hearing.

The notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you. If they are giving you less than 3 days, then you may be able to challenge it as illegal.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't giving you the required time to make your payment.

Find local legal aid here.

Do I have to leave my home by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date in New Jersey?

No, you do not have to leave (or 'quit') your home by the date listed on the notice to quit.

You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.

After the date on the notice to quit passes, your landlord then may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.

Find legal help here to prepare for going to court.

What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home?

A tenant can only be evicted through a court process. The landlord must go through the courts in order to have a tenant evicted.

A landlord cannot take the law into his or her own hands (self-help eviction). Self-help eviction is against the law and is a criminal offense.

Call the police if the landlord locks you out. Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.

Find legal help here.

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in New Jersey?

You can come to an agreement outside of court, but you should still go to court to make sure your case is closed. You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home. Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it. Also, you should still go to court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen. You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed. Find local legal help here.

Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, you are required to show up to the court, if you want to avoid the eviction. If the tenant does not show up, the landlord will win by default.

Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.

Find local legal help here.

My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in New Jersey. What should I do?

You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit.

In New Jersey, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:

  1. The summons and complaint can be mailed to you by the court, delivered to you by an officer of the court, left at your home with a child over the age of 14, or posted on your door.

  2. The hearing will be 10 days or more from the day when you receive the Summons and Complaint.

You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction.

Find local legal help here.

Emergency Protections during COVID

Can I break my lease during COVID in New Jersey?

You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

Your lease is still valid despite the emergency period. However, you can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

Also, you can review your lease. This is very unlikely but it may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease has this kind of section, you might be able to break the lease, in some cases penalty-free. ( Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

What do the protections mean for renters in New Jersey?

The protection means that after December 31, 2021 in New Jersey:

  • Your landlord can give you a notice to quit.

  • Your landlord can file an eviction claim against you.

  • Hearings on eviction may proceed.

  • The court can issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.

  • Law enforcement can enforce an existing eviction order against you, to remove you from your home.

Are there any special protections for New Jersey renters during the COVID-19 emergency?

New Jersey's eviction protections have expired as of December 31, 2021. Tenants may still be able to get help with rent that they owe.

Earlier Protections

Earlier, New Jersey had passed a law that renters making less than 80% of area median income are protected from eviction through December 31, 2021. This is for evictions based on non-payment of rent, for rent due during the COVID emergency.

Renters (with income above 80% of area median income) had been protected from eviction through August 31, 2021. That protection is now expired.

Earlier, Governor Murphy had issued a moratorium on evictions throughout the emergency period. That has since expired. The Governor's Executive Order 106 went into effect on March 19, 2020.

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID in New Jersey?

Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must file an eviction lawsuit against you, win the case, and get an eviction order from the court.

Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

Find legal help to protect your rights.

Do I still have to pay rent during the emergency?

Yes, New Jersey renters must still pay their rent.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  • Apply for rental assistance: If you need financial assistance for housing costs like rent or utility bills, you may be able to get help.

  • Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Beware, your landlord has no obligation to agree to reduce your rent or enter into a repayment arrangement.

  • Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make, that are signed and dated. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.

  • Keep proof of COVID-19’s impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.

If you are struggling to pay rent in New Jersey, reach out for legal and financial help as soon as possible.

Are eviction cases still proceeding through New Jersey courts?

Eviction hearings are proceeding through New Jersey courts.

Even if you have protections, the courts may still schedule conferences, including to get contact information from the parties and to conduct settlement negotiations (mediations) in an effort to resolve matters.

Settlements are voluntary and you should still seek legal advice.

Check with your local courts for more information.

Can my utilities be shut off during the COVID emergency in New Jersey?

Utilities may now be shut off for New Jersey renters, since emergency protections have expired.

Earlier, New Jersey utility companies had agreed not to shut off utilities during the emergency because a customer is unable to pay.

If you need help paying for utilities in your rental, check for financial help.

Landlords are never allowed to engage in self-help eviction and shut off a renter’s utilities in an attempt force a tenant out. Self-help eviction is illegal.

Call the police if this happens. If the police are not helpful, then you may seek court intervention.

If you need legal assistance, please contact your local bar association or Legal Services of New Jersey.

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