As with anything worth pursuing, the better prepared a landlord is before signing a lease the better off the landlord will be should any difficulty arise during the term of the lease. Below is an outline of items a landlord should address prior to signing a lease as part of due diligence:
- Document the condition of the premises. Take pictures of the entire inside and outside of the property and keep handy any repair invoices.
- Check with the municipality to determine whether a certificate of occupancy is required.
- Confirm that there are no local ordinances that would either limit or prohibit leasing the premises.
- File with the municipality any necessary Registration Statement for single or two-unit dwellings that are not owner occupied. All other landlords file the Statement with the Department of Community Affairs. The Statement is necessary in the event the landlord seeks a judgment for possession. Ultimately, the Statement must be posted on the property and a copy given to the tenant. Without the Registration Statement, the court will not be able to act (unless the property is owner occupied with two or fewer units).
- Obtain a copy of the Truth in Renting booklet from the Department of Community Affairs and give it to the tenant at the commencement of the tenancy.
- Advise the tenant of the availability of Crime Insurance and tenant’s right to purchase coverage.
- Open a separate bank account to deposit any security deposit paid by the tenant. The deposit must be made into an interest bearing account in a New Jersey bank, savings bank, or savings and loan association. Landlord must notify the tenant of the name and address of the depository institution within 30 days of receiving of the deposit. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant may direct the landlord to apply the deposit toward rent and the landlord may not ask for another deposit.
- At lease signing, provide tenant with each of the foregoing notices and have the tenant sign a statement acknowledging receipt.
Doing your homework prior to becoming a landlord in New Jersey will save you from potential penalties and delayed eviction proceedings, which can add up to significant costs.