Senator BRIAN P. STACK
District 33 (Hudson)
Requires landlords to pay attorney’s fees for successful tenants if lease reserves the landlord the same right.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act requiring a residential landlord to pay attorney’s fees for a successful tenant where the landlord has reserved the same right through the lease, and supplementing chapter 18 of Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. If a residential lease agreement provides that the landlord is or may be entitled to recover either attorney’s fees or expenses, or both, incurred as a result of the failure of the tenant to perform any covenant or agreement in the lease, or if the lease provides that such costs may be recovered as additional rent, the court shall read an additional implied covenant into the lease. This implied covenant shall require the landlord to pay the tenant either the reasonable attorney’s fees or the reasonable expenses, or both, incurred by that tenant as the result of the failure of the landlord to perform any covenant or agreement in the lease. The court shall order the landlord to pay such costs when actually and reasonably incurred in the tenant’s successful defense of any action or summary proceeding commenced by the landlord against the tenant, or in any action or summary proceeding commenced by the tenant against the landlord, arising out of the lease. An order based on this implied covenant shall require the landlord to pay the tenant such costs either as money damages or a credit against future rent, as determined by the tenant. Any waiver of this section shall be void as against public policy.
2. If a residential lease agreement provides that the landlord is or may be entitled to recover attorney’s fees or expenses from the tenant for any action arising out of the lease, as described in section 1 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the lease clause shall also contain the following provision in no less than 14 point bold point type:
IF THE TENANT IS SUCCESSFUL IN ANY ACTION OR SUMMARY PROCEEDING ARISING OUT OF THIS LEASE, THE TENANT SHALL RECOVER ATTORNEY’S FEES AND EXPENSES FROM THE LANDLORD.
3. Section 1 shall take effect immediately, and shall apply to all residential leases currently in force. Section 2 shall apply to new lease agreements executed on and after the first day of the seventh month next following enactment.
This bill requires a residential landlord to pay attorney’s fees for her tenant when the tenant is successful in a legal action between the two, if the landlord has reserved the same right through the lease.
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. If such a lease provision exists, this bill would instruct 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. Beginning 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. This bill would improve the basic fairness of landlord-tenant proceedings, and would create a disincentive for landlords to bring unfounded eviction cases.