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:
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
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:
- Tenant enters the property with the landlord’s permission
- Length of tenancy is indefinite; and
- 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
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
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).
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
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.