Pursuant to N.J.S.A.46:8-9.4, et seq., a tenant may break a lease if a victim of domestic violence. The tenant must provide to the landlord written notice that the tenant or his/her child faces “an imminent threat of serious physical harm” from another “named person” if the tenant remains on the leased premises, and any of the following:
- Final Restraining Order from New Jersey Superior Court
- Restraining Order from any other state
- Law enforcement agency record documenting domestic violence
- Emergency Room or Doctor’s report showing domestic violence
- Certification by a “certified Domestic Violence Specialist” or director of a domestic violence agency that tenant/child is a victim of same
- Certification from a licensed social worker that tenant/child suffers domestic violence
- The lease shall terminate 30 days from the date of receipt of the above by the landlord (note: the landlord and tenant may agree on an earlier termination date)
There are a few conditions to the above. The tenant is bound by the regulations of public housing leases, as well as state and federal law applying to same, where applicable. A tenant may not break the lease of a seasonal rental, which is defined as “for a term of not more than 125 consecutive days” where the tenant has another permanent dwelling. Bear in mind that the landlord to show the rental is seasonal, and seasonal housing is not excluded when it is the living quarters for seasonal, temporary or migrant farm workers in connection with work being done for the landlord.
When a landlord is given this notice, he or she has a number of rights and responsibilities of which to be aware. Rent is still due up until the tenant leaves, which shall be paid, pro rata, up to the time the lease terminates. The landlord is forbidden from disclosing, sharing or providing any information given by the tenant.
Something most people are still unfamiliar with is that the lease is terminated for ALL tenants on the lease. Nevertheless, the other tenant(s) will not be evicted per The Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A.2A:18-61.1, just because one tenant terminated the lease. So, what can a landlord do, then? The landlord may issue a new lease or treat the remaining tenant(s) as holdover tenants, subject to a month-to-month lease.
Both parties retain any other rights they may have and cannot waive these rights. However, when it comes to security deposits, as per N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.1, the security deposit must be made available within fifteen (15) days from termination of the lease, minus any charges allowable under the law. This is a change from the usual 30 days notice requirement, so both landlords and tenants should be aware of this.