The key to a healthy leasing relationship between the landlord and the prospective tenant is to go through the right screening process to ensure that the person complies with all of the landlord's requirements to inhabit their property and pay rent on time.
New Jersey rental applications, in general, have certain rules regarding the tenant screening process. In most cases, your rental application will cover the following screening criteria:
- Rental history
- Criminal history
- Credit history
- Employment history
It's vital to note that, in New Jersey, there are two types of arrangements you can consider for your rental property:
In essence, the first one is the general NJ leasing agreement, which is the one we will cover here. On the other hand, the second one is the Department of Housing and Urban Development rental application, which is recommended for low-income tenants or landlords offering Section 8 Housing.
The following article will cover everything you should know when drafting a New Jersey rental application form so that you can comply with the law at every moment.
Rental Application Fee
In the state of New Jersey, there are no limits on the amount of money a landlord can charge the applicant for the application fee.
While the application fee amount depends on the New Jersey landlord, it's recommended not to charge more than the standard out-of-pocket expenses that come from drafting the rental application.
As for the security deposit for the rental property, there is a limit, unlike the application fee itself.
A New Jersey landlord cannot charge more than one and a half months' worth of rent for the security deposit. In case the rent price increases between each term, the landlord will be allowed to increase the security deposit amount by 10% or less.
Landlords renting 10 or more units must save the deposit money in a variable rate, interest-bearing account, which must be insured.
On the other hand, if the landlord is renting less than 10 units, they should keep the money in an insured, interest-bearing account that works with the bank's standard interest rate.
Finally, landlords don't have to provide a receipt for the deposit, although they may do it if they feel that it's appropriate.
Things You Can Include
The New Jersey rental application is rather simple since the clauses included in the tenant screening process are similar to other states. Generally speaking, here's what your rental application form should include:
Landlords may request a full credit report or a simple credit check. The full report will include a brief on the applicant's credit score, employment, monthly income, previous rental history, and other important information.
Criminal History Check
These screening criteria will cover the tenant's involvement in any records surrounding criminal activity or criminal databases (if there's any).
Finally, the eviction check will show the rental applicants' history of eviction judgments against them or general filings over the past seven years.
Laws and Consent Guidelines to Follow for Background Checks in New Jersey
Regarding a New Jersey rental application form, the Federal Credit Reporting Act requires landlords to request written consent from potential renters so that they can receive background check information on their credit and rental history.
Landlords may provide the consent in the rental application form or in a separate document.
Things You Can't Include
Although New Jersey laws for rental properties are flexible enough, there are some considerations regarding unfair discrimination guidelines.
According to the Federal Fair Housing Act, landlords in New Jersey cannot discriminate against any of the following protected classes:
- Religion (unless the rental unit is owned, controlled, or operated by a religious organization, and said organization doesn't rent the property for commercial purposes)
- Age (unless the rental property involves an age-specific community (i.e., senior housing)
- Familial Status (unless the lease involves children living in a two-family, owner-occupied building or a rental of a room in a single-family unit where the landlord lives)
- Marital Status
- Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
- Source of Income (in case of public assistance)
- Military service
- HIV/AIDS status
In essence, it's illegal for landlords to ask for any of these factors in their residential lease agreement form.
Still, there are some exemptions (aside from the ones mentioned above) that are worth noting:
- Private Clubs: Landlords can provide preferential consideration for lodgings in case of any clubs that operate without commercial intent or public access.
- Owner Occupied Properties: New Jersey landlords can use the Mrs. Murphy exemption so that they don't need to abide by the FHA laws in case they live in a unit of a single-family property that has four dwellings or less, and if they represent themselves during the rental process. However, it's still illegal to base the rental decision on the tenant's race.
Eviction Record Search
A tenant's past evictions are public record in the state of New Jersey. If you want to access this information to complement your screening process, you may follow this process:
- Go into the New Jersey eCourts Civil Case Jacket.
- Choose the type of civil case you want to look for from the menu.
- Go into "Search by Party Name," and enter the applicant's full name and any other required information or captcha codes.
- Choose the case summary you want to review. If there are any relevant documents for you to check, they will have a paperclip icon so that you can identify them easily.
Adverse Action Notices
Landlords in New Jersey must provide a letter to the tenant if they consider taking any adverse action against them after looking at their report. Overall, the report must include an explanation regarding the consumer reporting agency, why they didn't take the action themselves, and other relevant information.
Moreover, this document must also include a statement regarding the tenant's right to request a copy of the report and dispute it within 60 days. While it's not required to specify the reason why the landlord is rejecting the tenant, it's recommended to do it.
Some of the factors that count as adverse action involve rejecting a potential tenant and the other following reasons:
- Requiring a co-signer (and they didn't request one before)
- Asking for a higher security deposit than one and a half months' rent
- Asking for higher rent
Build Your Own
If you feel like the application process is too overwhelming for you, our free application form is the solution to this problem. You can download this document in Word or PDF format. Moreover, you can download a customizable version to add any other clauses you consider appropriate, as long as they're compliant with the law.
The tenancy process doesn't have to be complicated for anyone. As long as there's written consent and understanding between the two parties, the background check process will be a much more comfortable one.
We hope this page has given you all the resources you need to get started. If you need further help, feel free to browse our website or download our free template so that you can fill out the necessary information without too many problems.
DoorLoop hosted this webinar with attorney Craig Rothenberg from The Law Office of Craig Rothenberg to help answer many of your legal questions. Craig specializes in real estate law and evictions in New Jersey and we covered:
- Landlord-tenant issues and laws
- Grounds to evict a tenant
- Eviction process
- Preventing delays or fines
- Hiring an Attorney vs DIY
- Post COVID legal changes
Feel free to learn more and watch this webinar for free.
How Long Does It Take to Get Approved for an Apartment in New Jersey?
Typically, rental applications get up to three business days to get reviewed. It all depends on the owner.
What Is a Tenant Application Form?
It is a document where the landlord provides a background check on the applicant to determine if they are a good fit for entering their rental unit.
Is New Jersey a Landlord-friendly State?
Generally, New Jersey is not considered landlord-friendly since there are several rent control guidelines that may prevent the owner from charging or increasing rent as they wish. However, since there are no limits regarding the application fee, owners have more freedom in the application itself.