Understanding New Jersey's Safe Housing Act, According to the Law Office of Michael D. Mirne

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New law allows victims of domestic violence to terminate their leases

The Law Office of Michael D. Mirne announces information for New Jersey landlords. The new law allows victims of domestic violence to terminate their leases under New Jersey's "Safe Housing Act." Enacted in October of 2008, victims of alleged domestic violence will be able to terminate their leases upon thirty days written notice to the landlord. This new law will undoubtedly be of concern to many landlords, who are now exposed to additional vacancy and turnover loss. However, it is widely acknowledged that domestic violence is a serious crime affecting thousands of tenants throughout the State. The new law will allow persons who claim they were victims of domestic violence to leave their abusive relationship and surrender possession of their dwellings without fear that their landlords will hold them responsible for rents that may become due after the surrender of the premises. The notice of termination does not need to coincide with the beginning of a month. Rents will be prorated accordingly to accommodate mid-month terminations. The Safe Housing Act also provides that the tenant's security deposit must be returned within 15 days of the surrender of the premises. This is a deviation from the 30-day period prescribed by the Rent Security Deposit Act.

Proving Eligibility under the Act
In addition to providing the landlord with written notice of the intent to terminate, the tenant must also produce any one of the following documents:

1.    A restraining order from any state or jurisdiction; or
2.    Medical documentation of the domestic violence; or
3.    Certification of a domestic violence specialist or social worker; or
4.    A police report certifying that the domestic violence took place.

It should be noted that no conviction is necessary to prove the incident of domestic violence under the Act. Landlords are understandably concerned about fraudulent claims by tenants who may collude with each other to void an undesirable lease agreement. Notwithstanding this concern, we know of no documented case, in which a landlord challenged the validity of a claim of domestic violence. Finally, it should be noted that the Safe Housing Act contains a non-disclosure clause which prohibits landlords from revealing the basis under which the lease was terminated.

About the Author: Michael Mirne currently represents residential and commercial landlords throughout the State of New Jersey. His practice is comprised of Tenancy disputes, Tax Appeals and Civil Litigation. He handles nearly 1000 evictions per year as well as habitability hearings, rent increase trials, and representation of landlords before Rent Leveling Boards. As a residential and commercial landlord himself, Mr. Mirne frequently lectures Landlords and Realtors on how to avoid the pitfalls commonly associated with bad tenants. His areas of expertise include drafting and negotiating leases, as well as drawing of the proper notices for termination under the Anti-Eviction Act. As a Tax Appeal Practitioner, Mr. Mirne is one of a select few attorneys in the State of New Jersey also Certified and Licensed as a Tax Assessor. He has tried several hundred real estate tax appeals and won his clients over ten million dollars in reductions in property tax assessments. For more information, please visit http://www.mirnelaw.com.

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