Senator RONALD L. RICE
District 28 (Essex)
Establishes confidentiality of landlord-tenant court records.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
As amended by the Senate on March 25, 2021.
An Act concerning the confidentiality of landlord-tenant court records and supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. As used in P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill):
“Landlord-tenant court record” means any court record containing information regarding a completed or pending landlord-tenant action, including but not limited to:
a. any information maintained by a court in any form in connection with a landlord-tenant case or proceeding, including but not limited to pleadings, evidentiary exhibits, indices, calendars, and dockets;
b. any order, judgment, or warrant related to a landlord-tenant action;
c. any official transcript or recording of a public landlord-tenant proceeding, in any form;
d. any information in a computerized case management system created or prepared by the court in connection with a landlord-tenant action; and
e. any record provided to, made or maintained by a judicial officer.
2. A landlord-tenant court record shall remain confidential and unavailable to the public 1[unless and]1 until the landlord-tenant court 1[action results in the court issuing] issues1 a judgment for possession 1or the case is otherwise resolved or decided by the court. The landlord-tenant court record shall thereafter be made available to the public, except the court shall, consistent with its rules and procedures, order the landlord-tenant court record to remain confidential if one the following has occurred:
a. A tenant successfully asserts a breach of the warranty of habitability as a defense to an eviction action based upon nonpayment of rent; or
b. A tenant proves at trial that the rent due and owing alleged in the complaint was unlawful or was not valid1.
3. a. Any New Jersey public entity that maintains a written or automated record or file of landlord-tenant court records shall take appropriate actions to ensure that these landlord-tenant court records are kept confidential and unavailable to the public in accordance with sections 2 and 3 pursuant to P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
b. A tenant involved in a landlord-tenant action that resulted in a judgment of possession may apply to the court and request that the court seal the landlord-tenant court records. For that application, which shall be granted for good cause, the court shall consider whether a judgment for possession was subsequently dismissed or vacated, and whether there have been any other subsequent landlord-tenant actions filed against the tenant. No fee shall be charged for filing the application to seal with the court.
c. After seven years from the date of entry of the judgment for possession, if not already sealed by the court on tenant’s application, a landlord-tenant action shall be automatically sealed by the court and no longer accessible to the public.
d. The Supreme Court of New Jersey may adopt rules, and the Administrative Director of the Courts may issue directives and guidelines, to implement the purposes of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).
4. a. When evaluating a prospective tenant, a landlord shall not consider previous landlord-tenant actions that are confidential or have been sealed.
b. A person, tenant screening service, or other entity, shall not knowingly provide court filing information or information contained in landlord-tenant court records that are confidential or have been sealed to a landlord or other entity involved in the rental of a dwelling unit.
5. Any person who knowingly violates section 4 of P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) by revealing to the public a confidential sealed record, shall, in addition to any other penalty provided by law, be liable for a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $1,000 for the first violation, and $5,000 for each subsequent violation, plus reasonable attorney fees, collectible by the Attorney General in a summary proceeding pursuant to the “Penalty Enforcement Law of 1999,” P.L.1999, c.274 (C.2A:58-10 et seq.).
6. This act shall take effect six months from the date of enactment.