Landlords in New Jersey must abide by state and local housing and health codes. Tenants are required to notify their landlord of any defective conditions requiring repair. If a landlord fails to make the legally required repairs within a reasonable time, a tenant may report housing and health code violations to the appropriate government agency.
The New Jersey Bureau of Housing Inspection is the enforcement agency for housing code violations in buildings with three or more rental units. This code regulates everything from locks, window screens, ventilation, pests, plumbing, roofing, heating, painting, garbage, etc.
Tenants who live in buildings with three or more rental units can file housing code violation complaints against their landlord with the New Jersey Bureau of Housing Inspection at (609) 633-6241.
One and two unit buildings do not fall under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey Bureau of Housing Inspection, but most towns and cities have their own housing or property maintenance codes which usually apply to all buildings or apartments.
Tenants who live in buildings with one or two rental units can contact their city hall or municipal building to request a copy of the local housing code and file a complaint against their landlord with the building or housing inspector.
If a landlord refuses to repair conditions which present a health risk (such as no heat) or a sanitation problem (such as a sewage leak), the landlord may be in violation of a pubic health and nuisance code. In these instances, tenants can contact their city or county board of health to file a complaint.
Housing code violations in federally subsidized housing fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, New Jersey Field Office in Newark.
Once a complaint has been filed, an inspector will then be sent to check the condition. If the inspector finds violations, a letter will be sent to the landlord. The letter will advise the landlord of the housing or health code violations and will also notify the landlord that a re-inspection will be conducted on a specific date to check if the repairs have been made.
The complaining tenant should make a point to ask for the inspector’s name and request a copy of the report to be mailed to them.
If the landlord has still not made the required repairs upon re-inspection, the inspector can file a complaint in court on a tenant’s behalf, or the tenant can file the complaint. The court can impose fines, penalties or a jail sentence.
It is important to remember that state agencies are not as invested in landlords repairing defective conditions as tenants are. Consequently, tenants must take the initiative by insisting that inspections and re-inspections be done in a thorough and timely manner, and that the health and housing codes are enforced to the fullest extent of the law.
Low-income tenants may qualify for free legal advice from Legal Services of New Jersey.
The information on this website is intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis of legal advice of any kind. Individuals seeking specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.