Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Timothy Eustace, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Thomas Giblin to require residential landlords to pay attorney fees for tenants who are successful in a legal action between the two parties has been signed into law.
The sponsors noted that the law aims to help discourage landlords from initiating unfounded eviction cases against a tenant and increase the fairness in landlord-tenant proceedings when the landlord carries the same right to recovery of attorney fees through the lease.
“In contract agreements between a landlord and tenant, there must be legal fairness for both parties,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex).
“Either party can be exposed to fraudulent claims by the other party. This law will institute equal protection for both tenants and landlords in lease agreements,” said Eustace (D-Bergen, Passaic).
Currently, landlords often provide in lease agreements that the tenant will be responsible for the landlord’s attorney fees if the landlord is successful in a legal action involving the tenant. The new law (A-3851) will give the courts discretion on reading into the lease an additional requirement for the landlord to pay the tenant’s legal fees if the tenant is the successful party.
“The legislation intends to deter false claims sometimes made by the parties involved by sharing the reimbursement terms in lease agreements,” said Quijano (D-Union).
The law also provides that six months after enactment any new lease agreement containing a requirement for the tenant to pay the attorney fees of a successful landlord would also be obligated to contain language clearly indicating a requirement for the landlord to pay the attorney fees of a successful tenant.
“This is a common sense action to increase protection for New Jersey’s residential tenants,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
“This law will insert much-deserved fairness into decades of unfair practice,” said Giblin (D-Essex, Passaic).