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Housing
The Rights of Rooming/Boarding House Residents and Mobile Home Park Tenants

Thousands of people, most of them poor and elderly, live in rooming and boarding homes in New Jersey. Some of these buildings are old and greatly in need of repair. Some have narrow hallways with poor lighting and don’t have proper electrical and heating systems. This makes them fire hazards and hard to escape from when a fire occurs. The poor and elderly who live in these homes are often victimized by landlords who take advantage of the residents’ fear of eviction by demanding high rents for poor living conditions.

Thousands of other families reside in mobile home parks throughout New Jersey. Mobile home residents are in an unusual situation—they usually own their mobile home but have to lease the lot on which the home sits from a mobile home park owner. There are a limited number of licensed and approved mobile home parks. Almost none of these parks accept homes moved from another park. For this reason, mobile home residents have little room to bargain if they have a dispute with a park owner.

Special laws have been passed to protect residents of rooming and boarding homes and mobile homes. This section explains these protections.

Protections for rooming and boarding house residents

The Rooming and Boarding House Act is designed to protect residents living in rooming and boarding homes. Under the law, the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is responsible for inspecting every rooming and boarding home in New Jersey. DCA must make sure that each home is safe and decent. DCA must also make sure that the owner or manager of the house respects the rights of residents. For example, DCA must make sure that the building is fire safe, has no serious plumbing or electrical problems, has enough light and air, is clean, and is secure. DCA must make sure that the house is well run. They must also make sure that there are no violations of the residents’ legal rights, such as the right to have visits from family, friends, and social workers. Cite: N.J.S.A. 55:13B-1.

The licensing process

Every rooming and boarding home must apply each year to DCA for a license. DCA must then inspect the homes and review their records each year.

If DCA discovers that a building needs repairs or that other violations exist, it must send the owner a written notice of the violations. The written notice must state the date and time by which the owner must correct the violations. If the repairs are not made by the required date, DCA can (1) order the house to be closed, (2) fine the owner for the violations, or (3) ask a court to appoint a receiver. The receiver’s job is to make any necessary repairs or improvements and take all other steps necessary to properly operate the home.

DCA can authorize a county or municipality to do the inspections. If it does, DCA must control and supervise the inspections.

Protections against eviction

The protections in the Anti-Eviction Act apply to rooming and boarding home residents. This means that these residents are entitled to the same protections as all other tenants. This includes the protections against eviction listed in The Causes for Eviction. In addition, if a resident is displaced from a rooming or boarding home due to code enforcement, the resident is eligible for relocation assistance. See What is Relocation Assistance and How Can You Get It?. Cite: N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1; N.J.S.A. 55:13B-6(e).

Other rights of boarding home residents

The law says that every resident of a boarding home has the following rights:

  • To manage his or her own financial affairs;

  • To wear his or her clothing in the style he or she prefers;

  • To style his or her hair according to his or her preference;

  • To keep and use personal property in his or her room, except where the boarding house can show that this would be unsafe or impractical, or that it would interfere with the rights of others;

  • To receive and send unopened mail;

  • To unaccompanied use of a telephone at a reasonable hour and to a private phone at the resident’s expense;

  • To privacy;

  • To hire his or her personal doctor at his or her own expense or under a health care plan;

  • To privacy concerning his or her medical condition and treatment;

  • To unrestricted personal visits with any person of his or her choice, at any reasonable hour;

  • To be active in the community;

  • To present complaints for his or her own self or others to government agencies or other persons without threat of reprisal (getting even) in any form or manner;

  • To a safe and decent living environment and care that recognizes the dignity and individuality of the resident;

  • To refuse to work for the boarding facility, except as contracted for by the resident and the operator;

  • To practice his or her religion;

  • To not be deprived of any legal right solely because he or she lives in a boarding house; and

  • To be free from retaliation by the owner if the resident tries to stand up for or enforce his or her rights. Cite: N.J.S.A. 55:13B-14 and 19.

The owner must give each resident written notice of these rights, and the notice must be posted in the home. The notice must include the name, address, and telephone number of social services agencies, including the Office of the Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly, the county welfare agency, and the county Office on Aging.

Any resident whose rights are violated can sue the offender. The resident can ask for actual and punitive damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of the action. Cite: N.J.S.A. 55:13B-21.

Protections for mobile home tenants

Mobile home owners are also tenants because they rent space in mobile home parks. For this reason, mobile home owners are protected from eviction under the Anti-Eviction Act. They are also covered by the New Jersey Homestead Property Tax Credit Act. Court decisions have also established that other landlord-tenant laws, covering security deposits, receivership, truth in lending, landlord identity, discrimination against children, self-help eviction, distraint, and reprisal (getting even), also apply to mobile home owners, even though mobile homes are not specifically mentioned in these laws. Cite: Fromet Properties, Inc. v. Buel, 294 N.J. Super. 601 (App. Div. 1996); Pohlman v. Metropolitan Trailer, 126 N.J. Super. 114 (Ch. Div. 1973). Mobile home tenants also have special protections under the Mobile Home Act. These protections are explained in the sections that follow.

Requirement for a written lease

The Mobile Home Act requires park owners to give at least a one-year written lease to all renters of space within a month after they move in. This is the only form of residential tenancy in New Jersey where a written lease for a particular period of time is required. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-4.

However, the park owner may have a written rule about the style or quality of the type of equipment to be used by the home owner. A mobile home owner cannot be forced to buy equipment from a park owner or a particular outlet. The mobile home owner may sue the park owner in civil court if this happens.

A mobile home park owner cannot require a resident to buy either a mobile home or necessary equipment from a particular seller. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-2.

Moving and selling mobile homes

A mobile home park owner cannot ask a tenant to move his or her mobile home within the park unless the move is reasonably necessary. The owner must also serve the tenant with a 30-day notice. In an emergency, the operator may move the mobile home but is responsible for all costs for any damages to the mobile home resulting from the move. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-2.

A mobile home owner who plans to sell his or her home must give written notice to the park owner. It is unlawful to try to sell a mobile home without the park owner’s consent or knowledge. Before selling a mobile home, the seller must give the buyer an application for park tenancy. The buyer must then return the application in person to the park owner or operator. A park owner has the right to approve who buys a mobile home in the park but cannot deny anyone without reason. If the park owner unreasonably refuses to approve the buyer, the home owner or the intended buyer can sue in Superior Court. The court can award damages, costs of the lawsuit, and attorney’s fees. The court may also require the park owner to rent to the prospective buyer. A valid reason for refusal would be an unsatisfactory credit report on the prospective buyer. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-3.

A park owner can refuse to approve an interested buyer if the park has been legally designated for senior citizens and the tenant is below the minimum age requirement. However, in a park that is not reserved for seniors, discrimination against buyers with children may be against state and federal law. Please seek legal advice if you think you are experiencing this type of discrimination.

Disclosure of fees

A mobile home park owner must make known to the tenants and the public all fees, charges, assessments, and rules. These disclosures must be in writing and must be given to tenants before they move in. Any additional fees, charges, assessments, rules, or changes must also be in writing and given to mobile home tenants at least 30 days before the effective date. If the written notice is not given, the park owner cannot use a mobile home owner’s failure to comply as a cause for eviction. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-2.

It is unlawful for a mobile home park owner to ask for or receive a donation or gift directly or indirectly from someone who wants to rent a space in the park. This is a disorderly persons offense, and the owner can be prosecuted in municipal court. If such a payment is made, the home owner can sue to recover the amount paid. The judge can award double the amount of the unlawful payment, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8C-2.

Rent increases and maintenance

Rent increases for mobile home owners are subject to the same notice requirements and other limits, including rent control if applicable, as those for all other tenants. The mobile home park owner is responsible for the general upkeep of the park. This includes the maintenance of all services agreed to in the lease. If the park owner does not maintain the area or services properly, it constitutes a breach of the warranty of habitability, and the tenant may seek justice in the same ways any other tenant would.

Manufactured Home Owners Association

There is an association of mobile home owners that can provide information and other assistance to mobile home owners. Please contact:

MHOA NJ PO Box 104
Jackson NJ 08527
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (732) 534-0085

For information about citations, and how to get more information about a particular law, see Finding the Law in the Landlord-Tenant section.​​

2/1/2015