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New Jersey Bill Expands Domestic Violence Victim Protections for Tenants

Domestic Violence Victim Protections

TRENTON, N.J. - A bill introduced in the New Jersey Assembly aims to change how rental property owners and managers interact with residents who are victims of domestic violence or abuse. The bill was introduced Sept. 15, the same day the Assembly approved a six-bill legislative package that would expand protections for domestic abuse victims and strengthen law enforcement’s position to deal with offenders.

AB 3655, co-sponsored by Assembly Democrat Valerie Vainieri-Huttle, makes both additions and amendments to existing landlord-tenant statutes. Most notably, a property owner is prohibited from terminating or failing to renew a tenancy and from refusing to enter into a rental agreement, based on an individual’s current or past status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. This protection also extends to members of the individual’s household. The individual is required to provide the property owner with proof of his status. Documentation can take many forms: a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical forms, or a statement from a certified domestic violence counselor or social worker all meet the criteria.

The existing law allowing owners to eject tenants from a premises for a number of causes, such as willful destruction of property, disorderly conduct, constant rule violations or other similar breaches of the lease agreement. A new subsection clarifies that none of those provisions authorizes the removal of a lessee or tenant based on their status as a victim of domestic violence.

The bill acts as an extension of the New Jersey Safe Housing Act, which was supported by the New Jersey Apartment Association (NJAA). NJAA also supports AB 3655, which has been introduced in previous sessions, but not passed. It is likely that the bill will see more movement this session, given the Assembly’s focus on domestic violence issues.

Source: New Jersey General Assembly, New Jersey Apartment Association, Stateline