New Jersey law has several rules that explain what tenants can (or can't) do when they move out of an apartment or rental unit before the lease term ends.
Landlords must prepare accordingly for such scenarios, as that will help them get compensated in case the tenant tries to leave the property without further rent obligation.
The following page will cover everything you should know about early terminations in New Jersey, including notice requirements, what to do in these cases, and what penalties can be enforced.
Tenants looking to terminate a rental lease must comply with New Jersey's notice requirements, as not doing it would lead to penalties or lawsuits in the future.
Here are the lease notice requirements for New Jersey leases:
- Weekly Leases - Seven days of notice.
- Monthly Leases - 30 days of notice.
- Yearly Leases - Three months of notice.
Keep in mind that New Jersey law doesn't require tenants to provide notice for fixed-term leases.
Delivering a Notice Letter Legally in New Jersey
New Jersey law allows tenants to deliver their notice letters in two different methods:
- Serving the notice letter in person.
- Using registered/certified mail to send the notice letter.
Landlords are free to choose any method they consider appropriate. However, they must point out that information in the lease. If they don't, the tenant may ask which method is more appropriate.
Breaking a Lease Early
Tenants in New Jersey can end a lease whenever they want and for any reason. However, if they don't terminate the agreement with a valid reason, they may have to pay penalties to the landlord.
There are some cases where the tenant may be able to end the lease early without paying penalties. However, these termination "protections" are contingent upon the tenant meeting certain requirements, which we'll outline below:
Early Termination Clause
Some lease agreements already come with an "Early Termination Clause," which outlines the tenant's rights and responsibilities when it comes to breaking a lease early.
In most cases, these clauses explain all the consequences the tenant will meet if they don't end the lease under a justifiable reason. It's vital for all tenants to review the lease terms to understand such early termination rights.
Some tenants may try to negotiate with their landlord to see if they can come up with a mutual termination agreement for the current rental unit.
In essence, an Early Termination Clause in a lease agreement protects both parties from any legal problems, as long as they both comply with the terms specified there.
Active Military Duty
Most tenants who are starting active military duty are protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). In essence, these people are protected when they're relocated, and they may use that argument to move out of the rental unit before the lease term expires.
However, tenants who want to end the lease term under the "Active Military Duty" protection must send the landlord written notice with an attached copy of the deployment orders.
Keep in mind that tenants may only terminate the lease 30 days after the next rent period starts.
The term "Servicemember" refers to any members or commissioned corps of the:
- Armed Forces
- Public Health Service
- Activated National Guard
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Harassment or Privacy Violations
Tenants who feel harassed by their landlord may try to move out of the rental unit without paying a penalty. If the landlord's actions are serious enough, the tenant may end the lease without any problems.
There are two main cases that could be considered harassment or a violation of privacy:
- Changing Locks: Landlords in New Jersey aren't allowed to change the locks of the rental property without the tenant's consent. If they keep doing it for some time, they could get sentenced to up to six months in jail.
- Landlord Entry: Any landlord who wants to enter their rental unit in New Jersey must provide their tenant with proper notice. If they don't, they could "constructively evict" their tenant, which means they would get relieved of their lease duties. There, they could stop paying rent and not get penalized.
Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault
The state of New Jersey protects all tenants who are victims of domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault. These protections include:
- Protection from Termination
- Security Deposit Returns
- Protection from Penalties
To apply for these protections, the tenant must prove their current victim status to their landlord. They can include any of the following documentation:
- Copy of a Permanent Restraining Order
- Law Enforcement Agency Records
- Medical Documentation Records
- Certified Documentation from a Domestic Violence Specialist
- Certified Documentation from a Licensed Social Worker
New Jersey has certain health and safety codes that all landlords must meet if they want to avoid legal problems with their tenants.
Generally speaking, landlord-tenant laws in New Jersey allow tenants to request prompt repairs if they notice any hazard that can potentially affect them or their families.
If the landlord fails to provide these repairs within the required timeframe, the tenant will no longer have obligations to pay the remaining rent.
Some of the landlord's duties for providing habitable housing include:
- Complying with applicable building and housing codes in New Jersey.
- Making any repairs needed to keep the property in a habitable condition.
- Keeping all common areas safe and clean.
- Supplying running water.
- Supplying hot water and appropriate heat between October 1 and May 1 (this only applies to units that are required by law to be equipped in that way).
- Keeping all appliances in good working order.
New Jersey provides certain protections for people who are facing a severe health issue or qualified disability. The state also protects senior citizens who may need to move out of the property to move into a nursing home, continuing care community, or assisted living facility.
In any case, the tenant would need to get a certification that proves the health condition or disability. Moreover, they should provide that certification and notice at least 30 days before moving out.
Other Valid Reasons
Here, we'll outline some arguments that could allow a tenant to end the lease early. However, they may have to ask for a court's approval first:
- If the landlord continually violates the lease's terms, the tenant may be able to break the lease without any penalties.
- Contracts that are deemed illegal or unenforceable may be enough reason for a tenant to break the lease.
- If the landlord doesn't follow the mandatory disclosure rules in their state, the tenant may be able to break the lease.
Overall, the best way to understand these special provisions is to go through the state's landlord-tenant law, which already outlines everything you should know about them.
The following list includes reasons that tenants may also use to break a lease early. However, keep in mind that these often aren't enough justification on their own to relieve the tenant from further rent obligations.
In other words, tenants may not get legal protection against lease penalties if they try to use the following arguments to end the lease:
- Buying a new house.
- Relocating for a new school or job.
- Criminal activity around the area.
- Moving out because of a divorce or separation.
- Moving in with a partner, close friend, or family member.
- Upsizing or downsizing.
Tenants who want to break the lease under any of these conditions may still try to negotiate a mutual termination with their landlord.
As mentioned before, landlords may be able to enforce penalties if the tenant tries to break the lease without a valid reason. In order to enforce those penalties, you must include an "Early Termination Clause" that allows you to explain the consequences of trying to break the lease before it expires.
Most of the time, the landlord charges a penalty fee to be able to pay for the remaining rent or re-renting expenses. Depending on the case, the landlord may ask for the remainder of the rent, keep the security deposit, or file a lawsuit for a small claims court.
Not including an "Early Termination Clause" may give tenants more freedom when it comes to breaking a lease without penalties, which is why all landlords are encouraged to have it in the agreement.
Is There Any Way to Prevent Tenants from Breaking Their Lease Early?
Besides including an "Early Termination Clause," all landlords can do to prevent an early lease termination is to negotiate with their tenant.
Depending on the scenario, the tenant may decide to stay in the property until the lease ends as long as the landlord complies with the terms of the lease. On the other hand, the landlord may allow the tenant to leave the property if they pay penalty fees or if they help them find a replacement tenant.
Finding a replacement tenant is in everyone's interest, as doing it would relieve the tenant from further rent obligations and compensate the landlord for any potential "lost money."
In any case, communication is key, so make sure you both review the lease terms carefully before negotiating anything.
Re-renting Their Property
Landlords in New Jersey should make a reasonable effort to re-rent their units to a new tenant. If the landlord is able to find a new tenant, the old one wouldn't have to pay rent anymore.
Now, keep in mind that, while landlords have to make an effort to re-rent the unit, they aren't obligated by law to rent it again. This means that if the landlord fails to find a new tenant, the old one will still have to pay rent until the lease expires.
Subletting the Property
Tenants can sublet a rental unit in New Jersey if they get authorization from their landlord. Some landlords include a subletting clause in their lease that outlines the conditions for doing that. If the landlord didn't include these provisions in the lease, then the tenant must send a letter through certified mail to ask for permission.
Landlords can only refuse subletting requests under legitimate and reasonable factors.
Understanding New Jersey's landlord-tenant laws can get you a long way. Getting in legal trouble with your tenant can get too overwhelming, but thankfully, there are many ways to avoid that.
As long as you're careful when drafting your residential or commercial lease agreement and create an Early Termination Clause, you'll get protected accordingly and ensure you get compensated for any lost money.
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.
Does the Tenant Have to Give the Landlord Written Notice in a Fixed-term Lease?
No. Tenants aren't required to provide any notice if they're in a fixed-term lease. This is because these leases end on a set date.
The only scenario where the tenant would have to provide notice is when they're planning on ending a periodic lease.
Can Landlords Evict Their Tenants If They Don't Pay Rent?
Yes. Not paying rent is a valid reason for landlords to end a lease. However, they must provide proper notice to their tenant so that they pay the remaining rent before moving out.
If the tenant refuses or fails to pay rent within the specified period, the landlord may have the legal right to file a lawsuit.
It's important to note that tenants may refuse to pay if the landlord tries to do a rent increase mid-lease, as that's illegal under New Jersey law.
What Is the New Jersey Safe Housing Act?
The New Jersey Safe Housing Act is a law that allows tenants to end a lease if they're facing an imminent threat from another person if they don't move out of the property soon.
Tenants who want to break the lease under this act must provide their landlord with written notice and the appropriate documentation that prove they're facing a threat.
Is It Possible to Break a Lease Without Penalty in New Jersey?
Yes, but the tenant must comply with any of the scenarios mentioned on this page if they want to avoid penalties. On the other hand, tenants can try to negotiate with their landlord to come up with a mutual termination agreement.
- Breaking a Lease in New Jersey Webinar with Attorney Craig Rothenberg
- New Jersey Eviction Laws: The Process & Timeline In 2023
- New Jersey Landlord Tenant Laws & Rights for 2023
- New Jersey Squatter's Rights & Adverse Possession Laws
- New Jersey Rent Control Laws (2023) | The Complete Guide
- Section 2A:18-56 - Proof of notice to quit prerequisite to judgment: 2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes
- Servicemembers' Civil Relief Act (SCRA) | United States Courts
- New Jersey Statutes 46:8-9.6. Requirements for termination of lease
- Section 46:8-9.7 - Effective date of lease termination, conditions affecting co-tenants: 2014 New Jersey Revised Statutes
- Section 46:8-9.2 - Termination of certain residential leases due to disability: 2013 New Jersey Revised Statutes