Measure to Increase Fairness in Tenant/Landlord Disputes Now Law

courtLegislation to require residential landlords to pay attorney fees for tenants who are successful in a legal action between the two parties has been signed into law. The law was sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Timothy Eustace, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Thomas Giblin.

The sponsors noted that the law aims to help discourage landlords from initiating unfounded eviction cases against a tenant and increase the fairness in landlord-tenant proceedings when the landlord carries the same right to recovery of attorney fees through the lease.

“In contract agreements between a landlord and tenant, there must be legal fairness for both parties,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).

“Either party can be exposed to fraudulent claims by the other party. This law will institute equal protection for both tenants and landlords in lease agreements,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic).

Currently, landlords often provide in lease agreements that the tenant will be responsible for the landlord’s attorney fees if the landlord is successful in a legal action involving the tenant. The new law (A-3851) will give the courts discretion on reading into the lease an additional requirement for the landlord to pay the tenant’s legal fees if the tenant is the successful party.

“The legislation intends to deter false claims sometimes made by the parties involved by sharing the reimbursement terms in lease agreements,” said Quijano (D-Union).

The law also provides that six months after enactment any new lease agreement containing a requirement for the tenant to pay the attorney fees of a successful landlord would also be obligated to contain language clearly indicating a requirement for the landlord to pay the attorney fees of a successful tenant.

“This is a common sense action to increase protection for New Jersey’s residential tenants,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).

“This law will insert much-deserved fairness into decades of unfair practice,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic). [TLS]

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  1. This is another installment in the class war being waged by progressives against capitalism and free markets. I suppose it can do some good against true slumlords, but for your average landlord, who owns a small apartment building or multifamily home, this is an invitation for tenants to run up rent balances, destroy the landlord’s property and thumb their nose at the landlord who has to worry that the court will find any excuse at all to award the tenant legal fees against the landlord.

    A key element in the formula that makes capitalism the greatest economic engine ever is freedom of contract, which leaves every responsible citizen alone to enter into arrangements that suit his best interests. Whenever the government tampers with this mechanism, arrangements are distorted and the law of unforeseen circumstances soon kicks in. This law, for example, is very likely to exacerbate housing shortages as some small landlords will have to choose another investment when they get priced out of the market due to this additional coercive regulatory burden.

  2. I own 2 homes here in Lakewood which I rent out ( I bought them cheap and they are still not worth much here, “halevei” they would be in NYC or L.I.) I cleaned them up & fixed them up nice, so when ever tenants come to rent them they all say “give me a lease, I want to live here for a long time” so I tell them if you want to live here for a long time buy your own home, whenever I will need it for my my children to live in I will surely let you know. To get the tenants out May not be so easy, so I”ll just transfer them on to my children’s name before they are ready to move in & let my children pay the high taxes, insurance, lawn care , repairs, painting, roofing etc. they can have them.

  3. What’s it nogeah? I had never yet seen a tenant shell out a cent for an attorney, if they come to court represented it’s usually a free legal aid attorney, otherwise they come to court unrepresented and bring a well dressed friend with them. And the tenants know it, the landlord may spend heavy thousands in legal fees, the tenants not a cent, but everyone in the court usually sides with the tenant anyways.

  4. To #2 A YID- I have shelled out $7000 for legal fees as my landlord trying to illegally evict me and tried via the courts. He stopped fixing things such as a blown out window from the hurricane, leaky roof, broken ac and such over the past 2 years. I cant get legal aid because i work on the books and pay taxes. my landlord cant simply evict me because he wants to although HE CLAIMS HE CAN He purchased these homes as an investment. According to law a landlord cant not harass a tenant by verbal threats, unannounced visits or lack of management. You can not increase rent more then the percentage allowed by the rent control. You cant ask for money under the table You cannot throw out in middle of lease…and if its owned by a business they cant evict because they claim they or their children want to move in.

    Once the home is sold then a tenant must move at end of lease.

    its rampant in Lakewood for tenants to have issues even those who are not eligible for legal aid.

  5. Your headline is misleading. The balance is NJ courts in my experience is that the bias is to THE TENANT not the landlord. I have been in property management for over 20 years in NJ though not in Lakewood. Tenants withhold rent for the most ridiculous reasons including and not limited to their phone service not working because the county cut lines while repairing a broken water main a few blocks away!!!!

  6. To answer #5 Finally:
    You say you paid $7,000 in legal fees to punish your landlord; Sure! I wouldn’t even believe that you paid $700 in legal fees & who are you to punish your landlord, if your so miserable there take your stuff and move on with your life, and if your landlord is so bad, mean & wrong G-D hates him more than you do & his day will come, work to make your life better not to make someone else’s life worse.

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