As a renter in the State of New Jersey, you have rights. It is important to be familiar with these rights so that you are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. As a renter, you should be familiar with relevant New Jersey law on the rights of tenants in eviction situations, as well as other matters such as security deposits and rent increases. Knowing your rights is the best way to protect them.
Residents of New Jersey have a right to housing that is safe and decent. The legal term for the responsibility of a landlord to keep his property in decent condition is "warranty of habitability." Landlords in New Jersey are required by law to maintain the physical and structural integrity of a building (including walls, windows and the roof), as well as appliances and utility delivery systems. Landlords are also required by law to maintain clean common areas, keep buildings free of pests and vermin and provide for basic security against theft and break-ins such as working locks.
New Jersey law provides for specific guidelines for rent increases. Any increases done outside of these guidelines are invalid and violate New Jersey state law. Landlords may only increase the rent at the beginning of a new lease. The tenant must be notified either verbally or in writing that her lease is being terminated and that a new lease with higher rent is being enacted. Retaliatory rent increases are illegal in the State of New Jersey. Finally, rent increases may not be outrageous or shocking (the legal term is "unconscionable"). If your rent has been exorbitantly increased, you may refuse to pay it and pursue legal action.
Under New Jersey law, any security deposit put on a rental property belongs to the tenant and is only held by the landlord in trust. Nothing may be deducted from the security deposit by the landlord for any reason while the tenant occupies the property in question. New Jersey law sets the cap on a security deposit at one-and-a-half times one month's rent. A security deposit must be returned within 30 days of an occupant leaving a building, plus any interest gained on the deposit, minus any money used for essential repairs and cleaning.
Landlords violating legally established procedures for eviction (lock outs, physical removals or termination of utilities) are considered disorderly persons under New Jersey law. Tenants whose rights are being violated should notify the police immediately. Further, if you are evicted and owe back rent, your former landlord may not keep your belongings in lieu of rent.