Trenton – The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Brian Stack that would establish a rental habitability database for use in landlord-tenant proceedings. The bill, S-4083, would additionally permit tenants in public housing to bring proactive action against their landlord for habitability violations, and provide that tenants would be entitled to attorney’s fees under certain circumstances if they prevail in a landlord-tenant proceeding.
“In August, hundreds of Plainfield renters were forced out of their homes with just a 24-hour notice after their apartment buildings were deemed unsafe, with active fire hazards, broken windows, and falling ceilings. These properties had an extensive history of code violations, and a landlord unwilling to do the minimum required to keep their tenants safe,” said Senator Stack (D-Hudson), “This bill will establish a database for judges to use in landlord-tenant proceedings, so that they are aware if a landlord is a bad actor with a history of serious habitability violations, and help tenants take action against their landlord if they are living in unsafe conditions.”
The database under the bill would be made available to both courts and litigants for use in landlord-tenant proceedings, and would include information pertaining to habitability violations or other safety related notices.
Landlords who include in a rental lease a provision that they can recover attorney’s fees would similarly be required to include that the tenant would be entitled to recover attorney’s fees to the same extent as the landlord, if the tenant prevails in proceedings. Landlords who fail to include this provision would be subject to fines.
The bill was approved in a 5-0 vote.