What are my rights if my landlord changed mthelocks to my apartmentwith no notice?

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What are my rights if my landlord changed mthelocks to my apartmentwith no notice?

I never got court date and he said if that if I want to remain I have to pay $3000 by next week. I paid rent in for this month and last month but he never cashed the checks. He said the reason it’s $3,000 is because my lease expired and I have to repay a realtor fee because my wife is no longer living here and I want her off the lease. I have full custody of my 10 year-old daughter and have no where to go. Is it legal to lock me out and is it legal to tell me I have to give $3000 even though I paid rent. Yes it was late but I always pay.

Asked on April 22, 2011 under Real Estate Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Speak with a landlord-tenant attorney right away--the landlord is violating your rights.

1) A landlord can NOT lock you out on his own in NJ; he has to evict you through a court proceeding, which includes giving you notice and your day in court. If he changes the locks by himself, he's committed an illegal eviction and you can take legal action to get back in and/or seek monetary damages.

2) If your lease is up, the landlord may seek an increase, but NJ law limits how much of an increase he can seek. He also can't necessarily add a "realtor's fee."

3) If  you've paid your rent--that is offered it to the landlord--he can't evict you for nonpayment. If you habitually pay late, he can begin the process of evicting you for late payment, but that entails first sending you a "notice to cease" instructing you to stop paying late and giving the chance to remedy the situation.

So there are several things that, from what you write, your landlord appears to be doing wrong. Speak with an attorney, and if you can't afford one, try New Jersey Legal Services--they can often help, and do good work.


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