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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Housing > Relocation Assistance

What is Relocation Assistance and How Can You Get It?


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:

  • The building is to be boarded up or torn down with government approval.
  • The landlord is ordered by the housing or building inspector to make repairs that cannot be made unless the tenants move.
  • The landlord has allowed more people to live in a unit than the law allows, or the landlord has made a separate apartment out of a part of the building— such as an attic or a basement—that it is not legal to rent.
  • The building is being taken over by a government agency to be used to build a school playground, a highway, a police station, a neighborhood renewal program, or some other public project.
  • The landlord is not allowed to rent the apartment or room because of zoning laws.
  • The law requires that tenants forced to move for any of the above reasons be eligible for relocation assistance. Cite: N.J.S.A. 20:4-1, et seq.; N.J.S.A. 52:31B-1, et seq.; N.J.A.C. 5:11-1, et seq.; N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(g) or 2A:18-61.1(h).

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:

  • Money for temporary housing until the tenant finds a permanent home, if the government agency forces the tenant to move out immediately because of an emergency.
  • A payment to cover the tenant’s actual moving costs, or a dislocation allowance of $200 and a fixed moving payment of up to $300, based on the number of rooms occupied.
  • Up to $4,000, payable over three years, to meet rental expenses, or up to $4,000 to help with the required down payment expenses to purchase a house.
  • Help to locate a new, affordable place for the tenant to live.

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
(609) 984-7609

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:

  • Do not move from your apartment or home until you get a notice from the relocation office telling you that you are eligible for relocation assistance and that you must move.
  • If you find housing on your own, ask the relocation officer to inspect the housing before you move to make sure that the housing is safe and decent.
  • If the relocation officer finds housing for you to move into, make sure that the housing is decent, safe, and sanitary; near your work, transportation, and public facilities; affordable; and large enough for you and your family.
  • File an application for relocation assistance benefits as soon as possible, but no later than 12 months after your moving date.

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.​​