Tenants can rent property as tenants at-will, month-to-month, year-to-year, or in another agreed upon arrangement. New Jersey law on legal notices and evictions can be different for each type of tenant.

New Jersey law recognizes different categories of tenants.

Tenancies are treated differently depending on the timing for lease expiration or renewal, kind of property, landlord-tenant relationship, and for “holdover tenants.” Disputes may be prevented with an understanding of the applicable procedures.

This article discusses the following types of tenants:

Month-to-Month Tenants

A “month-to-month tenancy” means the lease renews each month with the same terms unless the landlord or tenant terminates the lease.

Tenants on a yearly lease that is not renewed – unless an agreement to the contrary – become month-to-month tenants if the landlord-tenant relationship continues.

Month-to-month tenancy relationships do not need an oral or written agreement – but can be implied in fact from the conduct of the landlord and tenant.

For example, if a landlord continues to collect rent and does not ask the tenant to leave upon the expiration of a 1-year lease, the tenant typically becomes month-to-month. The terms of the expired one-year lease renew each month until the tenancy ends.

This law is set forth by New Jersey statute:

“Whenever a tenant whose original term of leasing shall be for a period of one month or longer shall hold over or remain in possession of the demised premises beyond the term of the letting, the tenancy created by or resulting from acceptance of rent by the landlord shall be a tenancy from month to month in the absence of any agreement to the contrary.”

N.J.S.A. 46:8-10

A judgment of possession may be properly ordered “if a tenancy from month to month has been terminated by the giving of on month’s notice to quit, which notice shall be deemed to be sufficient.” N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56.

Case Study: Month-to-Month Tenants

  • Case. Chabora v. Morales, N.J. Super. App. Div. 2020
  • Facts. Tenant auto-shop owner in Scotch Plains had no written lease. Premises were inherited and new owner tried to evict owner.
  • Issue. Whether tenants alleged “oral lease” was enforceable.
  • Ruling. Landlord had properly terminated the lease with a 30-days’ Notice to Quit: “A month-to-month lease agreement . . . need not be in writing nor even be expressed in words because enforceable agreements also may be implied in fact from the conduct of the parties.”
  • Insight. Month to Month tenancy can be implied when a landlord continually collects rent.

Tenants at Will

A “tenancy at will” may be terminated by either the landlord or tenant at any time.

Tenancies at will are created when a tenant enters with permission from the landlord for an indefinite period, with the landlord and tenant having the right to terminate the tenancy.

The three “elements” of a tenancy at will are:

  1. Tenant enters the property with the landlord’s permission
  2. Length of tenancy is indefinite; and
  3. Landlord or tenant have the option at any point to end the tenancy.

Tenants at will are entitled to will 3-months’ notice to quit. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56(a).

Case Study: Tenants at Will

  • Case. Gretkowski v. Wojciechowski, 97 A.2d 701 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1953)
  • Facts. Tenant business owners were allowed to move into by the first floor of a house in exchange for paying yearly taxes, insurance premiums, and maintenance costs. After the owner passed away, heirs filed to evict the tenant.
  • Issue. Were the tenants “at will”, and entitled to a longer notice period, even after the owner passed away?
  • Ruling. The tenancy-at-will continued even after the owners became deceased: “As a general rule, a person who enters on land by permission of the owner for an indefinite period and without the reservation of any rent is a tenant at will by implication.”
  • Insight. Tenancies at will, entitled to a 3-month notice to vacate period, may continue even after the prior owner becomes deceased.

Tenant at Sufferance

A tenancy at sufferance is created when a tenant enters with permission for a definite amount of time, and stays after that amount of time without permission.

Three elements form a tenancy at sufferance:

  • Tenant enters the property with permission for a defined period of time
  • Tenant stays at the property after the defined period of time
  • Landlord does did not consent to the tenant staying at the property

In Wa Golf Co. v. Armored, Inc. (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2014), the Appellate Division explained that a tenant at sufferance is “‘one who comes into possession of land by lawful title, usually by virtue of a lease for a definite period, and after the expiration of the period of the lease holds over without any fresh leave from the owner.'”

Landlords can legally consent to a tenant holding over – even without an oral or written agreement. “Consent” can be implied by affirmative actions of the landlord (for example, collecting rent without taking clear action to remove the tenant).

No notice is required to evict a tenant at sufferance.  A tenancy at sufferance is terminable without notice to quit.

Case Study: Tenant at Sufferance

  • Case. Mintz v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 379 A.2d 526 (N.J. Cty. Dist. Ct. 1977)
  • Facts. Tenant life insurance company stayed at a Morristown office after its fixed-term lease ended.
  • Issue. Was life insurance company a “tenant at sufferance” and not entitled to a notice period before termination?
  • Ruling. Company was held to be tenant at sufferance: “A tenancy at sufferance arises when a person enters into possession of property with the consent of the owner, and remains in possession after the expiration of that right of possession. The requisites for a tenancy at sufferance are (1) lawful entry and (2) a holding over after the termination of the right under which he entered.”
  • Insight. Commercial tenants that remain at office space beyond a fixed-term lease can be deemed tenants at sufferance without a notice period to terminate the tenancy.

Year-to-Year Tenancy

A “year to year” tenancy is a lease for one year that automatically renews until sufficient notice is given. Year-to-year Tenants are entitled to 3-months’ notice to quit. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56(a).

Fixed-Term Leases

Leases can be for definite periods of time.

A common fixed-term lease is for one-year and not renewable. At the conclusion of a one-year fixed-term lease several outcomes could occur:

  • The lease is renewed for another fixed period (such as 1-year).
  • The landlord-tenant relationship continues as month-to-month tenancy, with original lease terms continuing.
  • The tenant becomes a tenant at sufferance lease that is not renewed, the tenant would typically become a month-to-month or tenant at sufferance.

Tenants are entitled to 1-months’ notice prior to terminating a fixed-term lease. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56(c).

Leases longer than 3-years must be in writing to be enforceable (unless terms are proven by clear and convincing evidence).  N.J.S.A. 25:1-12.

Case Study: Statute of Frauds

  • Case. Uygur v. Bell Environmental Consultants, Docket No. A-5655-06T1 (N.J. Super. 2009)
  • Facts. Tenant business leased a second floor unit in Budd Lake and fell $92,000 behind on rent. Tenant tried to enforce an oral lease modification with a 5-year term.
  • Issue. Was tenants oral lease modification enforceable?
  • Ruling. The oral modification was not to enforceable because the Statute of Frauds required leases for more than 3-years to be in writing or proved by clear and convincing evidence.
  • Insight. Unless a tenant can prove terms of the lease by clear and convincing evidence, oral leases for longer than 3-years are not enforceable.

New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act

Tenants protected by New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act may only be evicted for “good cause” defined in this statute – regardless of their status as a tenant at will or month-to-month tenant.

The Anti-Eviction Act applies to residential properties where: (1) the owner does not live at the property, or (2) the owner does live at the property, but there are more than two rental units beyond the owner-occupied unit.

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