Coughlin Measure to Increase Fairness in Tenant/Landlord Residential Agreements Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin to require a residential landlord to pay attorney’s fees for a tenant who is successful in a legal action between the two when the landlord carries the same right through the lease was advanced by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

Coughlin noted in the bill that the legislation aims to increase the fairness in landlord tenant proceedings and help discourage landlords for initiating unfounded eviction cases against a tenant.

“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. The intention of the bill is to deter false claims by sharing the reimbursement terms in lease agreements.”

Currently, landlords often provide in lease agreements that the tenant will be responsible for the landlord’s attorney’s fees if the landlord is successful in a legal action involving the tenant. The bill (A-3851) would instruct the courts to read into the lease an additional requirement for the landlord to pay the tenant’s legal fees if the tenant is the successful party.

“This is a small legislative action would increase protection for New Jersey’s residential tenants,” added Coughlin. “Most importantly, it will insert much-needed fairness into decades of unfair practice.”

The bill also would provide that six months after enactment any new lease agreement containing a requirement for the tenant to pay the attorney’s fees of a successful landlord would also be obligated to contain language clearly indicating a requirement for the landlord to pay the attorney’s fees of a successful tenant.

The measure was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee; and it will now go to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.