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Repair and Deduct Laws in New Jersey

Tenants in New Jersey are allowed to make repairs to their rental and deduct that cost from their rent—as long as they've given their landlord a reasonable amount of time to fix the problem first.

If a rental property develops a major problem—a non-flushing toilet or a broken heater, for instance—it’s the landlord’s responsibility to take care of the issue. If they are unresponsive to a repair request, tenants in New Jersey can pay someone to make the repairs and deduct the cost from their rent. This concept is known as “repair and deduct.”

In some states, the law lays out a specific timeline for the repair process and caps how much a tenant could potentially deduct from the rent. Not so in New Jersey, where the timeline and cost are simply required to be “reasonable.”

Not every issue with a rental unit qualifies for repair and deduct

There are a lot of things that can go wrong in a rental unit, but not all of these issues are eligible for repair and deduct. Tenants across the U.S. are legally entitled to a rental property that meets basic structural, health, and safety standards and is in good repair—a concept referred to as the “implied warranty of habitability.” If that warranty is violated, then a tenant can legally repair and deduct.

Unlike some other states, where the process for repair and deduct is outlined in a law, in New Jersey it was created by a specific court case. In Marini v. Ireland, the tenant’s toilet was cracked and leaking water into the apartment.1 Other issues that qualify for repair and deduct include a lack of heat or water, broken windows, broken toilets, and a lack of electricity.2

However, issues caused by a tenant, their guests, or their pets do not qualify for repair and deduct.

Landlords have a “reasonable” amount of time to make a repair

Once there is a condition in the apartment that needs repair, a tenant should inform the landlord in writing of the condition and request a repair.3 This should be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested. That being said, if a tenant makes a reasonable effort to give their landlord notice and they are still unable to contact them, they may proceed to repair or replace.4

A tenant must give their landlord a “reasonable” amount of time to respond to the request and complete the repair. Although what’s considered reasonable varies depending on the facts of the case, taking a week to fix the air conditioning system in an apartment was considered reasonable by the court in a 1981 case.5

The cost of the repair must also be “reasonable”

If, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, a landlord has not made the requested repair, the tenant can proceed. The cost of the repair must be reasonable8—but, unlike many other states, New Jersey doesn’t give a set limit of what that means. That said, repair and deduct is generally intended for smaller fixes. Most states cap repair costs at about a month's rent.

When the tenant pays the next month’s rent, they may deduct the cost of the repair. A tenant must ensure that they give the landlord a copy of the receipt for the cost of the repair.

Tenants could be sued for deducting from their rent

It is important to note that a landlord may still take a tenant to court for not paying rent if they try to repair and deduct. What’s more, the judge could side with the landlord if it’s decided that the issue wasn’t serious enough to qualify for repair and deduct—or if the tenant failed to notify their landlord. So a tenant should always proceed carefully if they decide to repair and deduct.

Next steps

If the repair is really major, there's another tactic tenants can use: withholding rent until the landlord finally makes repairs. Learn more about the other options available to tenants in New Jersey if their landlord isn't being responsive to repair requests.

[1] Marini v. Ireland, 56 N.J. 130, 265 A.2d 526 (1970)

[2] “Habitability Bulletin,” New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (February 2008)

[3] “Habitability Bulletin,” New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (February 2008)

[4] Marini v. Ireland, 56 N.J. 130, 265 A.2d 526 (1970)

[5] Chess v. Muhammad, 179 N.J. Super. 75 (N.J. App. Div. 1981)

[7] “Habitability Bulletin,” New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (February 2008)

[8] Marini v. Ireland, 56 N.J. 130, 265 A.2d 526 (1970)

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice.