Tenants are often forced to move from their homes because of action taken by a government agency. This is called displacement. The reasons an agency could order a tenant to move include the following:
What is relocation assistance?
Relocation assistance is money and other support to help displaced tenants find a new place to live. Eligible tenants may be able to receive the following payments:
Tenants living in illegal apartments that violate the town’s zoning laws cannot be evicted unless they receive relocation assistance from the landlord (or the town, if it has a special law) in the amount of six times the monthly rent. This money must be paid to the tenant at least five days before the tenant is evicted. Cite: N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(g) or 2A:18-61.1(h); Kona Miah v. Ahmed, 179. N.J. 511 (2004).
Which agency provides relocation assistance?
If the landlord is trying to evict you because your apartment is not legal and violates the local zoning laws, the landlord must pay the relocation assistance. (See the preceding section of this Manual.) In all other cases, the law makes the government agency that orders you to move responsible for relocation payments, including money payments. The government agency will usually be a city, town, or township agency that is involved in any of the actions de- scribed above, such as the housing inspection office, health department, or fire department. Many cities have a relocation officer who must make sure that relocation assistance is available whenever any city agency causes displacement. The operation of local relocation support programs is monitored by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs in Trenton. Be aware: Cities and towns do not like to pay relocation assistance benefits, even to people who are eligible for them. Displaced tenants are often told that they are not eligible for these benefits when they clearly should receive them. Sometimes, tenants are told that towns "don't give relocation assistance." If you think you are eligible for relocation assistance and are not satisfied with the response of your local agency, contact your regional Legal Services office for further advice.
How can I obtain relocation assistance?
Visit your city or county relocation support office and ask if you are eligible for relocation assistance. You should contact the relocation support office as soon as you receive any notice that states that you must move because of bad conditions in your apartment, whether the notice is from your landlord or from a city agency. If you have any problems with your local relocation agency, you may appeal. Call and/or write:
Relocation Support Program
Department of Community Affairs
P.O. Box 802
Trenton, NJ 08625
How can I protect my right to receive relocation assistance?
There are several steps you can take to protect your right to receive relocation assistance:
Displacement by fire
Tenants who have lost their housing because of fire do not have an absolute right to receive relocation assistance benefits. Under state law, cities may, if they wish, provide fire victims with limited benefits. You must check with your local housing or fire inspector to see if your city or town provides relocation assistance to fire victims. Cite: N.J.S.A. 20:4-3.1. Another law allows tenants to sue to force their landlord to repair their fire-damaged apartments. This law states that if a tenant’s apartment or rented house is damaged by fire, and the fire is not the tenant’s fault, the landlord must repair the fire damage as quickly as possible. The law also excuses a tenant from paying rent until the repairs are made. However, this law may not help you if your lease contains provisions that are different from those in the law. Cite: N.J.S.A. 46:8-6.
For information about citations, and how to get more information about a particular law, see Finding the Law in the Landlord-Tenant section.
This information last reviewed: Jun 1, 2015