New Jersey Tenant Screening
Last Updated: January 19, 2015
In the 19th century, factories in cities such as Camden, Paterson, Newark, Trenton, and Elizabeth helped to drive the Industrial Revolution. New Jerseys geographic location at the center of the Northeast megalopolis, between Boston and New York City to the northeast, and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., to the southwest, fueled its rapid growth through the process of suburbanization in the 1950s and beyond.
How to Screen a Tenant in the State of New Jersey
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Step 1: Know Your Rights & Responsibilities
Landlords and property managers are subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF] (FCRA) during the tenant screening process. Additionally, New Jersey has laws that affect the tenant screening process. You can find the current New Jersey Codes And Standards. If you are finding the formalities of the state code daunting, you might want to check out these friendlier sites:
Recent Law Changes
As of February 1, 2014, New Jersey has a new law which allows a tenant the same rights to attorney fees and court costs if the tenant has to go to court to enforce the terms of the lease. The new law, P.L. 2013, Chapter 206, has been codified at N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.66 and N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.67.New Laws Report section
Step 2: Required Forms & Disclosures
Tip: before you rent for the first time, consider hiring a lawyer to review all of the documents you will use during the application and rental process to ensure that you are protected to the fullest extent of the law.
- Rental Application [PDF] (this must be completed in full by the applicant prior to screening)
- Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act [PDF]
- Consumer Report Disclosure [PDF]
If you are ACCEPTING an applicant:
- Move-In Checklist [PDF]
- Mold: Guidelines For New Jersey Residents
- Lease Agreement (written), containing or attaching the following information:
- Owner/Agent Identity – this should include name and address, and if the owner/agent is out-of-state it must include contact information for a resident of the COUNTY in which the rental is located that can act as an agent for the purposes of serving notices and process.
- Security Deposit – this must include the amount of the deposit and the conditions under which some or all of the deposit may be withheld. It must also include the name and banking institution holding the deposit.
- Non-refundable Fees – explicitly describe any non-refundable fees, and state clearly that they are non-refundable.
- Fire Protection & Safety Information: You must disclose the available fire protection and safety information specific to the unit you are renting, including smoking policy, evacuation plans, and who to notify in case of emergency.
- Flood Zone: Prior to move-in, New Jersey landlords must inform tenants if the rental is in a flood zone or area. (N.J. Stat. Ann. 46:8-50)
- Truth In Renting Act: Except in buildings of 2 or fewer units, and owner-occupied premises of 3 or fewer units, New Jersey landlords must distribute to new tenants at or prior to move-in the Department of Community Affairs statement of legal rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords of rental dwelling units (Spanish also). (N.J.S.A. 46:8-44, 46:8-45, 46:8-46)
If you are DECLINING an applicant:
- Adverse Action Notice [PDF]
Step 3: Order a Tenant Screening Report
What You’ll Need
- A completed rental application signed by the applicant.
- Some details about your applicant:
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Previous address
- Bank account number (optional)
- Bank routing number (optional)
What Will Be Covered
- Package Options
- Background Report Coverage for New Jersey:
- Criminal, OFAC/Patriot Act & Sex Offender Records – A nationwide search is always performed. These jurisdictions specifically are available in New Jersey: NJ Admin Office Of Courts, NJ Admin Office Of Courts Defendant List, NJ Admin Office Of Courts Sentence Disposition, NJ Debarment List, NJ Department Of Corrections, NJ Department Of Corrections Admissions, NJ Department Of Corrections Release, NJ Department Of Corrections Resident, NJ Sex Offender Registry, NJ Superior Court.
- Eviction Records – records are available from the following counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, Warren.
- Bankruptcies, Liens & Judgments – records are available from the following counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, Warren.
- Social Security Number validation, Death Index, credit checks, previous addresses, alias names, and the Rent Check Advisor® include all information available regardless of location.
Resources for New Jersey Landlords
- New Jersey State Bar Association Community Net
- New Jersey Courts Site
- Law Enforcement Agencies in New Jersey (Wikipedia)