ASSEMBLY, No. 916

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

217th LEGISLATURE

 

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2016 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblyman  JOSEPH A. LAGANA

District 38 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblywoman  GABRIELA M. MOSQUERA

District 4 (Camden and Gloucester)

Assemblyman  BENJIE E. WIMBERLY

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblywoman  ANGELICA M. JIMENEZ

District 32 (Bergen and Hudson)

Assemblywoman  ELIANA PINTOR MARIN

District 29 (Essex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblyman Mazzeo

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Provides rental and lease protections for domestic violence victims.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel.

  


An Act concerning certain lease agreements, amending and supplementing various parts of the statutory law.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section) a. A landlord may not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s or applicant’s or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement pursuant to section 3 of P.L.2008, c.111 (C.46:8-9.6).

     b.    Subsection a. shall apply if the tenant provides the landlord with any of the following:

     (1)   a copy of a permanent restraining order issued by a court pursuant to section 13 of “the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991,” P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-29);

     (2)   a copy of a permanent restraining order from another jurisdiction, issued pursuant to the jurisdiction’s laws concerning domestic violence;

     (3)   a law enforcement agency record documenting the domestic violence, or certifying that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence;

     (4)   medical documentation of the domestic violence provided by a health care provider;

     (5)   certification, provided by a certified Domestic Violence Specialist, or the director of a designated domestic violence agency, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence; or

     (6)   other documentation or certification, provided by a licensed social worker, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence.

     c.     A landlord who refuses to enter into a rental agreement in violation of this section may be liable to the tenant or applicant in a civil action for damages sustained by the tenant or applicant. The prevailing party may also recover court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

     d.    It shall be a defense to any action to remove a tenant under Chapter 18 of Title 2A that the action to remove the tenant and recover possession of the premises is in violation of subsection a. of this section.

     e.     Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit adverse housing decisions based upon other lawful factors within the landlord’s knowledge.

     2.    N.J.S.2A:18-53 is amended to read as follows:

     2A:18-53. Except for residential lessees and tenants included in section 2 of this act, any lessee or tenant at will or at sufferance, or for a part of a year, or for one or more years, of any houses, buildings, lands or tenements, and the assigns, undertenants or legal representatives of such tenant or lessee, may be removed from such premises by the Superior Court, Law Division, Special Civil Part in an action in the following cases:

     a.     Where such person holds over and continues in possession of all or any part of the demised premises after the expiration of his term, and after demand made and written notice given by the landlord or his agent, for delivery of possession thereof. The notice shall be served either personally upon the tenant or such person in possession by giving him a copy thereof or by leaving a copy of the same at his usual place of abode with a member of his family above the age of 14 years.

     b.    Where such person shall hold over after a default in the payment of rent, pursuant to the agreement under which the premises are held.

     c.     Where such person (1) shall be so disorderly as to destroy the peace and quiet of the landlord or the other tenants or occupants living in said house or the neighborhood, or (2) shall willfully destroy, damage or injure the premises, or (3) shall constantly violate the landlord's rules and regulations governing said premises, provided, such rules have been accepted in writing by the tenant or are made a part of the lease; or (4) shall commit any breach or violation of any of the covenants or agreements in the nature thereof contained in the lease for the premises where a right of re-entry is reserved in the lease for a violation of such covenants or agreements, and shall hold over and continue in possession of the demised premises or any part thereof, after the landlord or his agent for that purpose has caused a written notice of the termination of said tenancy to be served upon said tenant, and a demand that said tenant remove from said premises within three days from the service of such notice. The notice shall specify the cause of the termination of the tenancy, and shall be served either personally upon the tenant or such person in possession by giving him a copy thereof, or by leaving a copy thereof at his usual place of abode with some member of his family above the age of 14 years.

     Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the removal of a lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes based upon such person’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

(cf: P.L.1991, c.91, s.64)

     3.    Section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) is amended to read as follows:

     2.    No lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant may be removed by the Superior Court from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes, other than (1) owner-occupied premises with not more than two rental units or a hotel, motel or other guest house or part thereof rented to a transient guest or seasonal tenant; (2) a dwelling unit which is held in trust on behalf of a member of the immediate family of the person or persons establishing the trust, provided that the member of the immediate family on whose behalf the trust is established permanently occupies the unit; and (3) a dwelling unit which is permanently occupied by a member of the immediate family of the owner of that unit, provided, however, that exception (2) or (3) shall apply only in cases in which the member of the immediate family has a developmental disability, except upon establishment of one of the following grounds as good cause:

     a.     The person fails to pay rent due and owing under the lease whether the same be oral or written; provided that, for the purposes of this section, any portion of rent unpaid by a tenant to a landlord but utilized by the tenant to continue utility service to the rental premises after receiving notice from an electric, gas, water or sewer public utility that such service was in danger of discontinuance based on nonpayment by the landlord, shall not be deemed to be unpaid rent.

     b.    The person has continued to be, after written notice to cease, so disorderly as to destroy the peace and quiet of the occupants or other tenants living in said house or neighborhood.

     c.     The person has willfully or by reason of gross negligence caused or allowed destruction, damage or injury to the premises.

     d.    The person has continued, after written notice to cease, to substantially violate or breach any of the landlord's rules and regulations governing said premises, provided such rules and regulations are reasonable and have been accepted in writing by the tenant or made a part of the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     e.     (1) The person has continued, after written notice to cease, to substantially violate or breach any of the covenants or agreements contained in the lease for the premises where a right of reentry is reserved to the landlord in the lease for a violation of such covenant or agreement, provided that such covenant or agreement is reasonable and was contained in the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     (2)   In public housing under the control of a public housing authority or redevelopment agency, the person has substantially violated or breached any of the covenants or agreements contained in the lease for the premises pertaining to illegal uses of controlled dangerous substances, or other illegal activities, whether or not a right of reentry is reserved to the landlord in the lease for a violation of such covenant or agreement, provided that such covenant or agreement conforms to federal guidelines regarding such lease provisions and was contained in the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     f.     The person has failed to pay rent after a valid notice to quit and notice of increase of said rent, provided the increase in rent is not unconscionable and complies with any and all other laws or municipal ordinances governing rent increases.

     g.    The landlord or owner (1) seeks to permanently board up or demolish the premises because he has been cited by local or State housing inspectors for substantial violations affecting the health and safety of tenants and it is economically unfeasible for the owner to eliminate the violations; (2) seeks to comply with local or State housing inspectors who have cited him for substantial violations affecting the health and safety of tenants and it is unfeasible to so comply without removing the tenant; simultaneously with service of notice of eviction pursuant to this clause, the landlord shall notify the Department of Community Affairs of the intention to institute proceedings and shall provide the department with such other information as it may require pursuant to rules and regulations.  The department shall inform all parties and the court of its view with respect to the feasibility of compliance without removal of the tenant and may in its discretion appear and present evidence; (3) seeks to correct an illegal occupancy because he has been cited by local or State housing inspectors or zoning officers and it is unfeasible to correct such illegal occupancy without removing the tenant; or (4) is a governmental agency which seeks to permanently retire the premises from the rental market pursuant to a redevelopment or land clearance plan in a blighted area. In those cases where the tenant is being removed for any reason specified in this subsection, no warrant for possession shall be issued until P.L.1967, c.79 (C.52:31B-1 et seq.) and P.L.1971, c.362 (C.20:4-1 et seq.) have been complied with.

     h.    The owner seeks to retire permanently the residential building or the mobile home park from residential use or use as a mobile home park, provided this subsection shall not apply to circumstances covered under subsection g. of this section.

     i.     The landlord or owner proposes, at the termination of a lease, reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease, including specifically any change in the term thereof, which the tenant, after written notice, refuses to accept; provided that in cases where a tenant has received a notice of termination pursuant to subsection g. of section 3 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.2), or has a protected tenancy status pursuant to the "Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act," P.L.1981, c.226 (C.2A:18-61.22 et al.), or pursuant to the "Tenant Protection Act of 1992," P.L.1991, c.509 (C.2A:18-61.40 et al.), the landlord or owner shall have the burden of proving that any change in the terms and conditions of the lease, rental or regulations both is reasonable and does not substantially reduce the rights and privileges to which the tenant was entitled prior to the conversion.

     j.     The person, after written notice to cease, has habitually and without legal justification failed to pay rent which is due and owing.

     k.    The landlord or owner of the building or mobile home park is converting from the rental market to a condominium, cooperative or fee simple ownership of two or more dwelling units or park sites, except as hereinafter provided in subsection l. of this section. Where the tenant is being removed pursuant to this subsection, no warrant for possession shall be issued until this act has been complied with.  No action for possession shall be brought pursuant to this subsection against a senior citizen tenant or disabled tenant with protected tenancy status pursuant to the "Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act," P.L.1981, c.226 (C.2A:18-61.22 et al.), or against a qualified tenant under the "Tenant Protection Act of 1992," P.L.1991, c.509 (C.2A:18-61.40 et al.), as long as the agency has not terminated the protected tenancy status or the protected tenancy period has not expired.

     l.     (1) The owner of a building or mobile home park, which is constructed as or being converted to a condominium, cooperative or fee simple ownership, seeks to evict a tenant or sublessee whose initial tenancy began after the master deed, agreement establishing the cooperative or subdivision plat was recorded, because the owner has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.  However, no action shall be brought against a tenant under paragraph (1) of this subsection unless the tenant was given a statement in accordance with section 6 of P.L.1975, c.311 (C.2A:18-61.9);

     (2)   The owner of three or less condominium or cooperative units seeks to evict a tenant whose initial tenancy began by rental from an owner of three or less units after the master deed or agreement establishing the cooperative was recorded, because the owner seeks to personally occupy the unit, or has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing;

     (3)   The owner of a building of three residential units or less seeks to personally occupy a unit, or has contracted to sell the residential unit to a buyer who wishes to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.

     m.   The landlord or owner conditioned the tenancy upon and in consideration for the tenant's employment by the landlord or owner as superintendent, janitor or in some other capacity and such employment is being terminated.

     n.    The person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under the "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987," N.J.S.2C:35-1 et al. involving the use, possession, manufacture, dispensing or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, controlled dangerous substance analog or drug paraphernalia within the meaning of that act within or upon the leased premises or the building or complex of buildings and land appurtenant thereto, or the mobile home park, in which those premises are located, and has not in connection with his sentence for that offense either (1) successfully completed or (2) been admitted to and continued upon probation while completing, a drug rehabilitation program pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-14; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently, except that this subsection shall not apply to a person harboring or permitting a juvenile to occupy the premises if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent upon the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute the offense of use or possession under the said act. No action for removal may be brought pursuant to this subsection more than two years after the date of the adjudication or conviction or more than two years after the person's release from incarceration whichever is the later.

     o.    The person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under N.J.S.2C:12-1 or N.J.S.2C:12-3 involving assault, or terroristic threats against the landlord, a member of the landlord's family or an employee of the landlord; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently. No action for removal may be brought pursuant to this subsection more than two years after the adjudication or conviction or more than two years after the person's release from incarceration whichever is the later.

     p.    The person has been found, by a preponderance of the evidence, liable in a civil action for removal commenced under this act for an offense under N.J.S.2C:20-1 et al. involving theft of property located on the leased premises from the landlord, the leased premises or other tenants residing in the leased premises, or N.J.S.2C:12-1 or N.J.S.2C:12-3 involving assault or terroristic threats against the landlord, a member of the landlord's family or an employee of the landlord, or under the "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987," N.J.S.2C:35-1 et al., involving the use, possession, manufacture, dispensing or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, controlled dangerous substance analog or drug paraphernalia within the meaning of that act within or upon the leased premises or the building or complex of buildings and land appurtenant thereto, or the mobile home park, in which those premises are located, and has not in connection with his sentence for that offense either (1) successfully completed or (2) been admitted to and continued upon probation while completing a drug rehabilitation program pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-14; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who committed such an offense, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently, except that this subsection shall not apply to a person who harbors or permits a juvenile to occupy the premises if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent upon the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute the offense of use or possession under the said "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987."

     q.    The person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under N.J.S.2C:20-1 et al. involving theft of property from the landlord, the leased premises or other tenants residing in the same building or complex; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently.

     r. The person is found in a civil action, by a preponderance of the evidence, to have committed a violation of the human trafficking provisions set forth in section 1 of P.L.2005, c.77 (C.2C:13-8)  within or upon the leased premises or the building or complex of buildings and land appurtenant thereto, or the mobile home park, in which those premises are located; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who has been engaged in human trafficking, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently. No action for removal may be brought pursuant to this subsection more than two years after the alleged violation has terminated.  A criminal conviction or a guilty plea to a crime of human trafficking under section 1 of P.L.2005, c.77 (C.2C:13-8) shall be considered prima facie evidence of civil liability under this subsection.

     For purposes of this section, (1) "developmental disability" means any disability which is defined as such pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1977, c.82 (C.30:6D-3); (2) "member of the immediate family" means a person's spouse, parent, child or sibling, or a spouse, parent, child or sibling of any of them; and (3) "permanently" occupies or occupied means that the occupant maintains no other domicile at which the occupant votes, pays rent or property taxes or at which rent or property taxes are paid on the occupant's behalf.

     Nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the removal of a lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes based upon such person’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

(cf: P.L.2013, c.51, s.7)

 

     4.    Section 3 of P.L.2008, c.111 (C.46:8-9.6) is amended to read as follows:

     3.    The tenant may terminate any lease of a residential property that has been leased and used by the tenant solely for the purpose of providing a dwelling place for the tenant, or for the tenant's family, prior to the expiration date thereof, if the tenant fulfills all requirements and procedures as established by P.L.2008, c.111 (C.46:8-9.4 et al.) and provides the landlord with:

     a.     written notice that the tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another named person if the tenant remains on the leased premises; and

     b.    any of the following:

     (1)   a [certified] copy of a permanent restraining order issued by a court pursuant to section 13 of "The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1991," P.L.1991, c.261 (C.2C:25-29), and protecting the tenant from the person named in the written notice;

     (2)   a [certified] copy of a permanent restraining order from another jurisdiction, issued pursuant to the jurisdiction's laws concerning domestic violence, and protecting the tenant from the person named in the written notice;

     (3)   a law enforcement agency record documenting the domestic violence, or certifying that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence;

     (4)   medical documentation of the domestic violence provided by a health care provider;

     (5)   certification, provided by a certified Domestic Violence Specialist, or the director of a designated domestic violence agency, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence; or

     (6)   other documentation or certification, provided by a licensed social worker, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence.

(cf: P.L.2008, c.111, s.3)

 

     5.    This act shall take effect immediately.

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would provide rental and lease protections for domestic violence victims.  Under the bill, a landlord may not terminate a tenancy, fail to renew a tenancy, or refuse to enter into a rental agreement based on the tenant’s or applicant’s or a household member’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, or based on the tenant or applicant having terminated a rental agreement pursuant to the “New Jersey Safe Housing Act,” P.L.2008, c.111 (C.46:8-9.4 et seq.).  Under the “New Jersey Safe Housing Act,” a tenant may terminate a lease prior to its expiration if the tenant provides written notice that the tenant or a child of the tenant faces an imminent threat of serious physical harm from another person if the tenant remains on the premises, and provides appropriate documentation.

     The bill provides for the same documentation requirements as those set out in the “New Jersey Safe Housing Act.” The documentation may be any of the following:

     (1)   a copy of a permanent domestic violence restraining order;

     (2)   a copy of a permanent restraining order from another jurisdiction, issued pursuant to the jurisdiction’s laws concerning domestic violence;

     (3)   a law enforcement agency record documenting the domestic violence, or certifying that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence;

     (4)   medical documentation of the domestic violence provided by a health care provider;

     (5)   certification, provided by a certified Domestic Violence Specialist, or the director of a designated domestic violence agency, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence; or

     (6)   other documentation or certification, provided by a licensed social worker, that the tenant or a child of the tenant is a victim of domestic violence.

     Under the bill, a landlord who refuses to enter into a rental agreement in violation of this section may be liable to the tenant or applicant in a civil action for damages sustained by the tenant or applicant. The prevailing party may also recover court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

     The bill amends N.J.S.A.2A:18-53 and N.J.S.A.2A:18-61.1, which concern actions by landlords to remove tenants, to provide that these sections of law shall not be construed to authorize the removal of a lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes based upon such person’s status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking