New legislation making its way through the New Jersey Senate seeks to hold landlords responsible for disorderly conduct by tenants at rooming and boarding houses. Lawmakers say cities need the legislation to address “nuisance properties” in the state.
How might this change impact landlords?
Revision of the definition of landlord
If passed, the bill will change the definition of a landlord to include boarding and rooming house owners and operators. This will allow towns to enforce local ordinances regarding threatening and disruptive behavior that they currently can not enforce locally.
“Animal House Law”
The state passed legislation in 1993 that gives municipalities the authority to enact ordinances that hold landlords responsible for the conduct of tenants. However; currently, that law does not apply to owners and operators of rooming and boarding houses.
The penalties for violations vary by municipality, but typically involve fines that can be hundreds or thousands of dollars. Landlords have pushed back against the ordinances because they believe it is unfair to expect them to control the actions of tenants.
However, advocates for the ordinances believe it is the responsibility of landlords to know what is going on in their property and take action to remove tenants who cause problems. Many of the complaints against landlords arise from absentee landlords who do not routinely check on their rental properties.
If the new legislation passes, owners and operators of rooming and boarding houses will need to carefully screen tenants and promptly deal with tenants who cause problems for neighbors to avoid violating local ordinances. Some landlords may need to amend rental contracts to specifically outline penalties for disorderly conduct.