A lease is a contract that outlines the responsibilities and obligations of a landlord and tenant. Make sure to read your lease carefully before signing and, if possible, have it reviewed by an attorney. Do not sign a lease with blank spaces and be sure to get a copy of your signed lease from the landlord.
Your lease should include certain items such as the rental term, the amount of rent, and security deposit information. For a checklist of these and other items, visit the forms section of our website.
Many leases indicate late charges if the rent is not paid by a certain day each month. This charge is supposed to cover the money lost by the landlord as a result of the late payment. Courts will usually enforce late charges if the charges are reasonable and are spelled out in writing in the lease.
Renewing or Terminating Your Lease
Many yearly leases include a section explaining how you can renew the lease. A yearly lease that is not resigned automatically becomes a month-to-month lease when the written lease expires—unless you have moved out.
Leases may contain clauses detailing the conditions under which the lease can be ended prematurely. Sometimes a landlord may require 30 or 60 days written notice that you are renewing or vacating your apartment. Otherwise, you are bound to the conditions of the agreement for the entire period set forth in the lease.
Very rarely can a lease be prematurely terminated. If problems occur after you sign a lease, you must correct them as a tenant of the dwelling. Roach infestation, for example, is not necessarily sufficient reason for breaking a lease. There are a number of things you can do to correct problems with your new apartment while still maintaining your written and verbal agreements.
Likewise, a landlord cannot end a lease ahead of time except under well-defined circumstances. For more information on this, please see our eviction information section.
Leases may also contain information such as the bank where your security deposit will be held, who is responsible for each utility (water, heat, hot water, cooking gas, oil), when rent is due, what penalties accrue for the late payment of rent, and whether pets are allowed. The main requirements in New Jersey are that:
- no provision of the lease may violate state law, local ordinances, or other government regulations;
- all terms of the lease must be written in easily understandable, plain language.
It is extremely important that you make every effort to uncover problems with a prospective rental before you sign the lease. In addition to visiting units, ask the current tenants about problems they may have had with the unit.
SOME OTHER CLAUSES IN LEASES YOU MAY COME ACROSS ARE:
- No subletting or assigning of the lease is permitted (or not without written consent by the landlord).
- No pets allowed.
- Tenants must provide the landlord with copies of the keys.
- Tenants are required to obtain rental insurance.
- No smoking allowed.
HOWEVER, SOME CLAUSES IN A LEASE MAY BE ILLEGAL, FOR EXAMPLE:
- Your security deposit is nonrefundable.
- Tenants may not have cable television installed.
- The landlord is not responsible for repair and maintenance of the rental.