Egg Harbor, NJ asked in Landlord - Tenant for New Jersey

Q: Is a verbal agreement on a lease for an increase in rent legal in new jersey

I have been renting a property for 19 years. Last March, the landlord wanted to raise the rent. We had a verbal agreement over speaker phone because the landlord lives in Puerto Rico and we live in Nj. The verbal lease agreement was for 3 years with an increase every year. We agreed and I sent the rent in April of 2022 with the increase. August of 2022, we had a leak in the basement which resulted in ripping up the basement, the kitchen and the laundry room. there was mold involved. the landlord put in an insurance claim and we lived with the damage for 6 months, still paying the rent. On February 15,2023 he informed me that the insurance company denied the claim and he didn't have the money to fix the damage and he was selling the house and we had 90 days to vacate. I want to know if he needs to honor our 3 year verbal lease. I cannot find a place to live that I can afford and that is available.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: In New Jersey, the law generally requires residential lease agreements to be in writing if they are for a term longer than one year. This is due to the Statute of Frauds, a legal principle aiming to prevent misunderstandings and fraud. However, even verbal agreements can be legally binding if they are for a term of one year or less, but proving the terms and enforcing such agreements can be challenging.

Given your situation, the complexity arises from the verbal agreement extending over three years, which typically would need to be documented in writing to be enforceable. Despite this, the fact that you've been paying increased rent as agreed might demonstrate some level of commitment to the terms discussed. Nevertheless, without a written agreement, proving the specific terms and duration of your lease agreement could be difficult.

It's crucial to seek legal advice to explore your options. An attorney can assess the details of your case, including any evidence of the verbal agreement and payments made, to determine the best course of action. They can also provide guidance on your rights and any potential remedies available to you, considering the property's condition and your landlord's decision to sell.

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