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Friday, October 24, 2014

NJSA 2A:18-61.1e Rights of Former Tenants

2A:18-61.1e. Rights of former tenants
6. If a dwelling unit becomes vacated after notice has been given that the owner seeks to permanently board up or demolish the premises or seeks to retire permanently the premises from residential use pursuant to paragraph (1) of subsection g. or subsection h. of section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) and if at any time thereafter an owner instead seeks to return the premises to residential use, the owner shall provide the former tenant:

a. Written notice 90 days in advance of any return to residential use or any agreement for possession of the unit by any other party, which notice discloses the owners intention to return the unit to residential use and all appropriate specifics;

b. The right to return to possession of the vacated unit or, if return is not available, the right to possession of affordable housing relocation in accord with the standards and criteria set forth for comparable housing as defined by section 4 of P.L.1975, c.311 (C.2A:18-61.7); and

c. In the case of a conversion, the right to a protected tenancy pursuant to the "Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act," P.L.1981, c.226 (C.2A:18-61.22 et seq.), or pursuant to the "Tenant Protection Act of 1992," P.L.1991, c.509 (C.2A:18-61.40 et al.), if the former tenant would have at the time of the conversion been eligible for a protected tenancy under either of those acts, had the former tenant not vacated the premises.

The 90-day notice shall disclose the tenants rights pursuant to this section and the method for the tenants response to exercise these rights. A duplicate of the notice shall be transmitted within the first five days of the 90-day period to the rent board in the municipality or the municipal clerk, if there is no board. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection c. of section 3 of P.L.1975, c.311 (C.2A:18-61.6), damages awarded shall not be trebled where possession has been returned in accord with this section; nor shall any damages be awarded as provided for in subsection e. of section 3 of P.L.1975, c.311 (C.2A:18-61.6). An owner who fails to provide a former tenant a notice of intention to return to residential use pursuant to this section is liable to a civil penalty of not less than $2,500.00 or more than $10,000.00 for each offense, and shall also be liable in treble damages, plus attorney fees and costs of suit, for any loss or expenses incurred by a former tenant as a result of that failure. The penalty prescribed in this section shall be collected and enforced by summary proceedings pursuant to "the penalty enforcement law" (N.J.S.2A:58-1 et seq.). The Superior Court, Law Division, Special Civil Part, in the county in which the rental premises are located shall have jurisdiction over such proceedings. Process shall be in the nature of a summons or warrant, shall issue upon the complaint of the Commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs, the Attorney General, or any other person. No owner shall be liable for a penalty pursuant to this section if the unit is returned to residential use more than five years after the date the premises are vacated or if the owner made every reasonable effort to locate the former tenant and provide the notice, including, but not limited to, the employment of a qualified professional locator service, where no return receipt is obtained from the former tenant.

In any action under this section the court shall, in addition to damages, award any other appropriate legal or equitable relief.

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