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Landlords should know how to terminate a lease agreement

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | Landlord Representation

Landlord-tenant issues in New Jersey can be complicated. Often viewed from the perspective of the tenant, it is easy to forget that being a landlord is difficult. People who own property and rent it out are accorded certain rights to protect themselves. In some instances, that includes being allowed to terminate a lease agreement.

While there are fundamental shields that keep tenants from being treated unfairly, landlords also have options when they need to end a lease and have the current tenant vacate the property. Both landlords and tenants can terminate a lease, but for different reasons. If a landlord wants to terminate a lease or prevent a tenant from doing so, it is imperative to understand the state laws.

Terminating a lease

Landlords are limited in their right to simply terminate a lease. The only time they can do so is if they make an offer to the tenant for a new lease that alters the terms of the current agreement. For example, they could try to raise the rent or adjust the regulations for residing on the property. If the tenant refuses the new terms, then then lease agreement can be terminated. If a landlord wants a tenant to leave just because the lease has expired, they cannot simply evict them.

This is not to imply that the tenant can depart and is not responsible for what they owe based on the lease. Tenants who move out prior to the end of the lease are responsible for the rent they owe until the lease expires. Should the landlord rent the property before then, then the former tenant does not have to pay. The landlord is required by law to try and find another tenant to rent the property. If they are unable to, they must prove they made the attempt before collecting from the former tenant.

If a tenant attempts to terminate a lease, they can do so for the following reasons: moving out due to bad conditions; the residence not being handicapped accessible; having suffered from a disabling illness; due to domestic violence; and through the Service Members Civil Relief Act.

Bad conditions include not having necessary repairs done so the property is safe and habitable. For example, if there is a broken staircase, then the owner is responsible for repairing it or the tenant can leave regardless of the duration of the lease.

Landlords are obligated to make a property accessible for the handicapped and pay for it if there is a tenant who loses a limb or needs assistive devices to move around. They have 40 days from being informed that this needs to be done. A disabling illness, accident or death also means the tenant can break the lease. The landlord has 40 days to upgrade the property in this situation.

Terminating a lease due to domestic violence is for a victim’s safety. They can leave without giving notice and will not be asked to pay the remainder of the lease. Certification about restraining orders, law enforcement intervention, medical documentation and from domestic violence specialists will be sufficient to allow this. They will not be asked to pay the security deposit.

Landlords need to know their rights under the law

Landlords are expected to be empathetic to these circumstances, but they also have rights. If the attempt to terminate the lease agreement based on these reasons is not done according to the requirements or there are questions if it is valid, the landlord can try to prevent the lease agreement from being terminated.

Regardless of whether it is an attempt on the part of a tenant to terminate a lease, a dispute over a security deposit or an eviction, landlords should be prepared to handle the case according to the law to reach a positive outcome and address landlord-tenant

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