The Business of Being a Landlord and the Moral Imperative (Avoiding Homelessness)

by C. Gavin Oppermann, Esq.


The New Jersey landlord-tenant laws are arguably some of the most tenant-friendly (and thus landlord-costly) in the nation. Statutes, such as the Landlord Registration Act and the statutory requirements of “For Cause” evictions, create practical and legal impediments to removing a difficult tenant for any reason.

The exception to these impediments is non-payment of rent, which increases the time and costs necessary to remove a troublesome tenant. Thus, most landlords will use the claim of non-payment of rent as the primary basis for removal of a difficult tenant.

The question is: “Should they?”

Non-payment of rent is often attributable to influences beyond the control of the tenant. Loss of employment, unanticipated medical expenses and increases in utilities, can all influence the ability of an otherwise excellent tenant to remain current with their rent.

If the State, municipality, or the Federal Government were to provide a tenant with temporary assistance during this time of hardship, would it not be in the interests of both the tenant and the landlord to take advantage of such resources?


New Jersey Homelessness Prevention Program

The catastrophic fall-out of the financial crises of 2009 resulted in the reenactment of the New Jersey Homelessness Prevention Program (hereinafter the “HPP”). This program is funded by fees charged ($3.00 per document where collected) by the County Clerk and Recorders as permitted by the regulatory authorities. The purpose is to provide temporary or limited financial assistance for low to medium income households who are at risk of being homeless, through no fault of their own. Application is made through one of the approved agencies servicing the particular county.

As long as the tenant’s financial situation is temporary and they are otherwise reputable, a landlord can likely avoid the costs of eviction, vacancies, and legal fees through the HPP.

As a landlord’s attorney, I am often torn. Usually the relationship of the landlord and the tenant has become so fractured by the time I am retained, that assisting the parties to resolve the financial dilemma has become all but lost. Where I can, I feel it is important to provide the tenant with information on obtaining financial assistance.

However, I am often providing this information to a tenant at meditation, as an incentive to agree to a consent to vacate. This is because the resources can assist with relocation expenses, security deposits, and rental assistance for a period of time. By coupling this with other State, Federal, or charitable assistance, you can make the transition for a tenant less difficult. In addition, and, as a direct and intended consequence, you can increase the efficacy and profitability of the landlord’s legal strategy.

Sometimes the “Moral Imperative” coincides with “Good Business”.

Originally published at SES

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