In general, a landlord in New Jersey has to repair any issues at a rental property that could affect a tenant’s health or safety. The landlord must repair issues within “adequate time” of getting notice from the tenant via certified mail about the needed repairs.
New Jersey Landlord Responsibilities for Repairs
New Jersey landlords are responsible for keeping all of the following in good working condition:
Heating, between October 1 and May 15.
Air conditioning, at times and places where this impacts habitability.
Required smoke alarms and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors.
Required window and door screens, between May 1 and October 1.
Features that affect health, safety, or habitability.
If any of the above stops working properly, and the tenant isn’t at fault for the damage, the landlord is the one responsible for making the repairs necessary to fix it.
What Repairs Are Tenants Responsible for in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenants are responsible for repairingany damage they cause to the propertywhich affects health and safety.
Requesting Repairs in New Jersey
New Jersey tenants must request repairsby providing the landlord notice by certified mail about the issue that needs repair.
How Long Does a Landlord Have To Make Repairs in New Jersey?
New Jersey landlords get an “adequate” time under the circumstancesto make repairs, after getting a certified repair request.
Can the Landlord Refuse To Make Repairs in New Jersey?
New Jersey landlordscannot refuse to make repairsthat are their responsibility.
Do Landlords Have To Pay for Alternative Accommodation During Repairs in New Jersey?
New Jersey landlords arenot required to pay for alternative accommodationwhile they conduct repairs. However, a situation that requires the tenant to move out for repairs may be a constructive eviction that lets the tenant end the lease and stop paying rent after moving out.
Tenant’s Rights if Repairs Aren’t Made in New Jersey
New Jersey tenants canrepair and deductthe cost from rent if repairs aren’t made within an adequate time. They can also file a suit toseek a rent abatement (reduction) or refund,get an injunctionto force repairs, or in severe casesmove out and claim constructive eviction.
Can the Tenant Withhold Rent in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenants arenot allowed to unilaterally withhold rent,although it is common for courts to grant tenants a partial withholding (called an abatement).
Can the Tenant Repair and Deduct in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenantscan repair and deductfor substantial habitability issues. They must deliver notice of needed repairs to the landlord through certified mail, giving an “adequate” time for repairs. If the issue isn’t fixed, the tenant can then do repairs and deduct the reasonable costs from rent.
Can the Tenant Break Their Lease in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenantscan break their lease.If the landlord hasn’t fixed a habitability issue within an adequate time after getting notice through certified mail, the tenant can claim constructive eviction and immediately move out, ending the lease.
Can the Tenant Sue in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenantscan sueto force repairs or recover monetary damages, when the landlord doesn’t make timely repairs after proper notice.
Can the Tenant Report the Landlord in New Jersey?
New Jersey tenantscan report landlords for code violationsthat affect health or safety. Tenants should usually report to the local inspections or code enforcement department. If an inspecting officer finds a violation, the tenant could cancel the rental agreement, or sue to force repairs.
It’s illegal for New Jersey landlords to retaliate withattempted evictionorsubstantially changed terms of tenancy,against tenants who have taken one of the following protected actions in the past 90 days:
Complaining to the government about failure to maintain the property, after asking the landlord for repairs.
Participating in a tenant organization.
Pursuing rights or remedies given by the law or lease.
Winning a retaliation claim against the landlord.
The law allows an exception when the landlord can prove a non-retaliatory, good-faith reason for the alleged retaliatory action. For example, a landlord who raises rent proportionately in response to a large increase in property tax is not retaliating, even if a tenant has recently complained about maintenance.
While the law doesn’t specify adequate notice under every possible circumstance, the standard provided under the Notice to Quit will always be held as adequate: “Under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2, the Notice to Quit must either be given personally to the tenant or a family member in possession of the apartment or, as an alternative, the notice may be sent by certified mail, but ‘if the certified letter is not claimed, notice shall be sent by regular mail.’ The wording in the statute implies that the regular mail service should not be made until after the certified mail is unclaimed. We take judicial notice, however, of the common practice of sending the certified and regular mail notices at the same time, so that if the certified mail notice is unclaimed, there need not be the long delay which often occurs before the sender is apprised of this fact. We find no fault with this practice.” Tower Management Corp. v. Podesta, 226 N.J. Super. 300, 304 (App. Div. 1988)See also the state’s Habitability Bulletin which unequivocally demands certified mail as a means of service: “Notice should be given in writing and by certified mail, return receipt requested.” N.J. Dep’t. of Com’ty Affairs, Habitability Bulletin 2 (Sep. 2022 ed.) (bolding and italicization in original)
While not primary legal authority, the state’s Habitability Bulletin clarifies the applicable enforcement standard: “1. The defect must be of a ‘vital facility.’ Vital facilities are those things necessary to make the rental unit habitable. Examples of defects to vital facilities include: broken toilets, no hot or cold water, lack of heat or electricity or broken windows. 2. The tenant must not have caused the condition. 3. The tenant must have notified the landlord that the deficient condition existed and allowed the landlord adequate time to fix the defect.”
While not in itself legally binding, the state’s Habitability Bulletin provides the government’s current view of the basic enforceable standards, with appropriate citations: “From October 1st to May 15th, the rental premises shall be maintained at a temperature of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.; between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. the rental premises shall be maintained at a temperature of at least 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The hot water temperature should be maintained at a minimum of 120 degrees and a maximum of a 160 degrees Fahrenheit.”
“In this State, the doctrine of constructive eviction has been held properly invoked where there has been a physical interference with the tenant’s use of the premises, such as when the landlord has failed to provide heat, or repair defective plumbing, or prevent water seeping through exterior walls, or fix a leaky roof.”
While not primary legal authority, the state’s Habitability Bulletin clarifies the applicable enforcement standard: “Screens suited to protect the interior of the building against insects must be provided and kept in good repair for each exterior door, except exterior doors which do not provide ventilation. Screens shall also be provided, maintained and installed for each openable window in living and common areas. Screens are not required for units or common areas on the 6th floor or above. Screens shall be provided from at least May 1 to October 1 of each year, where required. … Leases must contain a notice advising tenants that, upon written request by the tenant, the owner is required to provide, install and maintain window guards in dwelling units with children 10 years of age or younger. In addition, yearly written notices must be given to tenants informing them of the window guard regulation. Landlords are not required to offer window guards for first floor units.”
“Smoke alarm(s) must be installed on each level of the dwelling, including the basement, outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedroom. Smoke alarms may be placed on the ceiling or within 12 inches of the ceiling on the wall.”
“Carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed and maintained in full operating condition in the following locations: 1. Single station carbon monoxide alarms shall be installed and maintained in the immediate vicinity of the sleeping area in every guestroom or dwelling unit in buildings that contain a fuel-burning appliance or that have an attached garage. 2. As an alternative to the requirements in (a)1 above, carbon monoxide alarms may be installed in the locations specified in the Uniform Construction Code (N.J.A.C. 5:23). A copy of the certificate of approval issued by the local construction code enforcing agency shall be provided to the Bureau at the time of installation, at or after the time of inspection, or at any other time, as proof of installation, in accordance with the Uniform Construction Code.”
New Jersey courts have adopted a set of criteria for evaluating whether a nonspecific condition on a rental property may create a habitability issue: “1. Has there been a violation of any applicable housing code or building or sanitary regulations? 2. Is the nature of the deficiency or defect such as to affect a vital facility? 3. What is its potential or actual effect upon safety and sanitation? 4. For what length of time has it persisted? 5. What is the age of the structure? 6. What is the amount of the rent? 7. Can the tenant be said to have waived the defect or be estopped to complain? 8. Was the tenant in any way responsible for the defective condition?”
“Forgiveness of rent payments can only occur if the tenant abandons the leased premises. In order to assert the defense of constructive eviction, a tenant must vacate the premises within a reasonable amount of time after the landlord’s breach.”
“[W]here there is a breach of the landlord’s covenant of habitability, there construed as mutually dependent upon the tenant’s covenant to pay rent, the tenant has various remedial options open to him. He may regard the breach as a constructive eviction and quit the premises without further liability to the landlord for rent. He may give notice to the landlord of the defect and if the landlord fails to remedy the condition, the tenant himself may do so, deducting the reasonable cost of repair from his rent. Or he may seek from the court an abatement of rent calculated on the basis of the difference, if any, between the rent reserved and the market value of the premises in their defective condition.”
“If, therefore, a landlord fails to make the repairs and replacements of vital facilities necessary to maintain the premises in a livable condition for a period of time adequate to accomplish such repair and replacements, the tenant may cause the same to be done and deduct the cost thereof from future rents. The tenant’s recourse to such self-help must be preceded by timely and adequate notice to the landlord of the faulty condition in order to accord him the opportunity to make the necessary replacement or repair. If the tenant is unable to give such notice after a reasonable attempt, he may nonetheless proceed to repair or replace. This does not mean that the tenant is relieved from the payment of rent so long as the landlord fails to repair. The tenant has only the alternative remedies of making the repairs or removing from the premises upon such a constructive eviction.”
“In any action or proceeding instituted by or against a tenant, the receipt by the tenant of a notice to quit or any substantial alteration of the terms of the tenancy without cause after: a. The tenant attempts to secure or enforce any rights under the lease or contract, or under the laws of the State of New Jersey, or its governmental subdivisions, or of the United States; or b. The tenant, having brought a good faith complaint to the attention of the landlord and having given him a reasonable time to correct the alleged violation, complains to a governmental authority with a report of the landlord’s alleged violation of any health or safety law, regulation, code or ordinance; or c. The tenant organizes, becomes a member of, or becomes involved in any activities of, any lawful organization…”
“In any action or proceeding instituted by or against a tenant, the receipt by the tenant of a notice to quit or any substantial alteration of the terms of the tenancy without cause after: d. Judgment under section 2 of this act is entered for the tenant in a previous action for recovery of premises between the parties; shall create a rebuttable presumption that such notice or alteration is a reprisal against the tenant for making such attempt, report, complaint, or for being an organizer of, a member of, or involved in any activities of, any lawful organization. No reprisal shall be presumed under this section based upon the failure of a landlord to renew a lease or tenancy when so requested by a tenant if such request is made sooner than 90 days before the expiration date of the lease or tenancy, or the renewal date set forth in the lease agreement, whichever later occurs.”