Landlord Registration Statements: Consequences of Failing to Comply
Under N.J.S.A. 46:8-27 and N.J.S.A. 55:13A-1, all landlords of residential rental dwellings in the State of New Jersey are required to register their rental units. For landlords who own three or more residential units in a single building, the registration is processed through the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). For houses of two residential units or fewer, the registration can be processed through the municipal clerk. The landlord registration statement, when filed with the municipality can generally be requested and filed on a “while you wait” basis. The information requested in the landlord registration statement application will generally include the names of the owners, and the persons to be contacted in the event of emergency. This document is alternatively known, in some municipalities, as the Landlord Identity Statement.
Compared with the Certificates of Occupancy, the registration statement application places relatively little burden upon the landlord. Registration Statements do not require inspections and do not need to be repeated upon the arrival of new tenants. While some municipalities require an annual fee (sometimes referred to as the license fee) for having a property registered, a single registration statement will generally be effective until the property is sold.
When a complaint for eviction is filed, the landlord, or landlord’s attorney, certifies that the property, for which the eviction is sought, has been registered. In some instances, the Tenancy Court judge will, upon his own initiative, request the landlord produce a copy of the registration statement. Under the law, no Judgment for possession should be entered against any residential tenant, unless the landlord has registered the property. While the law also requires that a copy of the Registration Statement also be served upon the tenant, we know of no reported decision in which Judgment for Possession was denied in a case where the Landlord could actually produce a Registration Statement, and had merely failed to provide a copy to the tenant.
It should be noted that the failure to obtain a registration statement does not necessarily result in dismissal of the tenancy action; however, the Judgment for Possession, which is the ultimate goal of all landlords in eviction Court, will be stayed up to ninety days until such time as the registration statement can be produced. In addition to the consequences relating to evictions, landlords who do not obtain registration statements may also have exposure to municipally imposed fines. This firm has represented several landlords who have failed to register their properties.
Finally, for landlords of two-family owner-occupied houses who are curious as to whether New Jersey’s Landlord Registration Statement Act applies to them, we note that there are only two exceptions to the Act. Once exception exists for seasonal tenancies of six months or less. The other exception applies in cases where the interior of the house has been certified as being free of lead paint. Dwellings constructed after 1978 are automatically considered to be free of lead paint. For more information on Landlord Registration Statements, please contact the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.