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What is a landlord obligated to do regarding habitability?

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2022 | Real Estate Law

If you are a landlord of rental properties, then you have lots of responsibilities. You’re the go-to person that agitated tenants call when their toilet overflows, the air conditioning won’t cool their unit or the heat balks in January.

But what are you legally required to do to ensure that the property is fit to live in? The New Jersey habitability laws describe exactly what a landlord’s responsibilities are. (Most of the state laws concern multi-family dwellings.)

You must keep the units you oversee in compliance with certain minimum standards. In fact, a New Jersey residential lease “must contain an implied warranty of habitability.”

Supplying the basics and keeping them in functioning order for your tenants

The list of must-haves includes fundamentals like these:

  • Water (cold and hot)
  • A mailbox
  • Detectors for carbon monoxide and smoke
  • Heat
  • Doors and windows need to be in acceptable shape
  • Electricity
  • Walls and roofs should not leak

Specific stipulations about heat

The state mandates that a temperature of (at minimum) 68 degrees Fahrenheit should be maintained between 6:00 in the morning to 11:00 at night beginning on October 1 and ending on May 1. During overnight hours (11:00 to 6:00), a minimum of 65 degrees Fahrenheit is the acceptable standard.

Landlords have to do the following:

  • Have sprinkler systems in high-rise dwellings
  • Put window guards in place in units where kids ten years of age and younger live
  • Eliminate pests
  • Have window and door locks
  • Get rid of lead paint in properties for rent constructed before 1978

What landlords are prevented from doing

Landlords are restricted by law from punishing tenants by failing to renew or ending their lease because they asked for habitability-related repairs. Landlords also cannot interfere if tenants choose to belong to a tenants’ organization, utilize their legal rights or register a complaint with an official.

If you are a landlord who needs clarity about your habitability-connected duties under the law. Contact a well-informed professional who can review the topic with you.