Can I Shut Off Utilities for Tenants in My Building in New Jersey?
It isn’t always easy to be a landlord. You have a responsibility to your tenants to either maintain a habitable dwelling or to pay the cost of moving them into a dwelling that is habitable for the duration of their lease. Even evictions can be long and drawn-out affairs with confusing legal hurdles.
Some landlords have gotten so desperate that they have wondered, “Can I shut off utilities for tenants in my building in New Jersey?” Although the short answer is “no,” it’s best to let our experienced real estate lawyers examine the situation to be sure.
Lock Outs and Self-Help Evictions
In the state of New Jersey, self-help evictions are not legal and can lead to charges being filed against the landlord. According to state law, turning off the utilities on tenants for nonpayment of rent is illegal and considered a self-help eviction.
If you do turn the utilities off, tenants may legally use their rent money to have the utilities turned back on, leaving you with no legal recourse to recover the rent money you have lost. In order to ensure you don’t take any steps that are illegal and end up costing you, it’s important to follow proper procedures.
Habitability in New Jersey Rentals
Landlords are required to keep their rental units in conditions that are safe for humans to live in. The New Jersey Habitability Bulletin even indicates specific temperatures that the dwelling must be kept at. This is not to say that tenants are unable to change the temperature themselves, but they must at least be able to maintain a certain level of comfort as determined by the state.
The bulletin does not stop with temperature, but also includes all utilities such as water and electric. Since a landlord would only be able to turn off utilities if they were under the landlord’s name and part of the rental agreement, the landlord would not only be breaking the law by turning the utilities off, but also breaking the terms of the lease in most cases.
Experienced New Jersey Tenant-Landlord Attorneys
When you’re frustrated with a problematic tenant who won’t leave, it seems like it would make sense to explore options such as shutting off utilities. However, you could be jeopardizing your own finances and legal standing by shutting those utilities off.
Instead, it’s best to consult qualified landlord-tenant attorneys to find out what your options are and the best way to move forward. Don’t risk doing something that could end up making the situation worse for yourself and costing you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
If you are a landlord in New Jersey and considering turning off utilities or other remedies to get your rent payment, let our experienced real estate attorneys at Jean Baptiste & Associates, LLC navigate the process on your behalf. Please call our office at 1-800-531-6442 to speak with an attorney. Alternatively, complete our contact form below.