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NJ Residential Tenants: Illegal Apartments & a Tenant’s Right to Relocation Benefits

Illegal apartments are a growing problem in northern New Jersey cities such as Newark, Paterson, Hoboken and Jersey City. Illegal apartments come in many forms, some nicer than others. Even a “nice” apartment, in a relatively new building, can be illegal. The illegality of the apartment can trigger a tenant’s right to relocation benefits (six times the monthly rent). Although securing a relocation benefit is a specific and nuanced process, the basics are easy to understand. Before making any relocation demand on a landlord, a smart tenant will know the basics illegal apartment law.

Landlords owning illegal apartments are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, illegal apartments that stem from zoning violations (for example, a three family construction in a two family zone) face heavy and mounting fines until the violation is cured. On the other, the only way to cure the violation is to evict the tenant. In most cases, evicting the tenant must be done according to the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. §2A:18-61.1. Even an eviction that strictly follows the onerous notice requirements must still pay relocation benefits pursuant to N.J.S.A. §2A:18-61.1h, Reimbursement to Displaced Tenant.

The Reimbursement statute requires:
“If a residential tenant is displaced because of an illegal occupancy in a residential rental premises pursuant to paragraph (3) of subsection g. of section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) and the municipality in which the rental premises is located has not enacted an ordinance pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1993, c.342 (C.2A:18-61.1g), the displaced residential tenant shall be entitled to reimbursement for relocation expenses from the owner in an amount equal to six times the monthly rental paid by the displaced person.”

The practical effect of the Reimbursement statute is this: If you are a tenant in an illegal apartment, you may be entitled to a relocation benefit of six times your monthly rent. Often, this benefit is essential to finding a new apartment. The upfront costs of relocation, including paying the first month’s rent and security deposit, make securing a relocation benefit essential.

The simplicity of the illegal apartment relocation benefit is beguiled by the intersection of local relocation ordinances and the nature of the illegality alleged of the apartment. Before demanding a relocation benefit, a tenant should consult an attorney to determine the effect of any local laws and ordinances on the relocation benefit statute. Further, not all citations by city officials give rise to an illegal apartment. A tenant’s right to relocation benefits is a powerful one, but it must be executed the right away. A consultation with Offit Kurman can help a tenant along the road of securing a relocation benefit from their landlord and out of their illegal apartment.

Since the facts of each circumstance vary, a tenant should consult an attorney with his/her specific circumstances. Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New York and New Jersey assisting tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New York City (Manhattan, New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, Queens, Queens County, Bronx County, Staten Island, Richmond County) and New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business. Contact us today for a guaranteed free initial consultation.