Four Must-know tips for Renting in New Jersey



Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

RELOCATION: Thinking of renting in New Jersey?

For many expats this can be a very good strategy. The main benefit being that as newcomers, they can get a comfortable familiarity with choosing where they want to live, before investing a large sum of money in purchasing either a house or apartment.

Although quite a number of expats do buy property on first arriving or even before, sometimes these purchases are regretted later, as they are made without a full knowledge of the location’s disadvantages, which become obvious post-purchase. Renting may not always be glamorous but it helps minimize this issue at least.

Renting in the New Jersey though can have its own share of surprises as things are done differently here than Australia, and no doubt other places.  

Here’s a few pointers to help you be better prepared:

1. You need Renter’s Insurance

When you get to sign your rental lease, it will likely be expected you have or will obtain in the near future, renter’s insurance. Although it may sound like something to protect the landlord from wild ‘party-animal’ occupants, it’s actually intended to protect the tenant. Renter’s insurance is much like contents insurance with the added extras of liability protection if any guests have an accident while visiting and coverage of medical expenses for any such visitor injuries.

To be clear here, landlords do not have liability for a tenant’s belongings. This policy negates the problem of who pays for damage to a tenants goods through accident or mishap. For a pretty small cost ~ $100-$200, you will be able to avoid issues like this. Most NJ rental leases require the tenant purchase this insurance as a condition of signing the lease, so it’s almost inevitable you will have to get a renter’s insurance policy some time.


State Farm are just one of many companies that provide renter’s insurance. Other companies include Geico, Allstate and Progressive. You should always get competitive quotes from a few providers to compare prices of their policies. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ


2. Evidence you can make regular payments

As a newly arrived expat in NJ, you will most likely not have an established credit history. This is OK but the landlord or managing agents will need some proof that you are able to manage rent payments through the term of the lease. If you have moved here for a job, then the best idea is to have a letter from your US employer, verifying what your new position is, what your salary package is and if possible the term of your contract here in the US. This should be available to provide the agent for the landlord or managing body, at the time of lease application. Alternatively, they want to site some of your recent pay stubs. 

3. Up to 3.5 months rental required as startup costs

To start your lease, you will most likely be expected to have the following payments ready to provide at short notice:

  • Up to 1.5 month’s rent as security deposit (security bond).
  • One month’s rent to start the lease.
  • One month’s rent as a commission fee to pay the realtors, who are handling the property. This is also called a brokerage fee.  In Australia, the landlord usually pays the commission to the real estate agent (realtor) when the property gets rented by a new tenant. In New Jersey, however, it’s the tenant who pays this fee.

These fees will need to be paid via a bank check (certified check) or in cash. Credit card and personal checks are not usually accepted.

When paying the realtor’s commissions, you will be asked to get two separate checks, as usually the realtor representing the landlord (if one is involved), will split their fee with any realtor that you are using. The fee is usually not a straight 50/50 split, so you will need to get the exact amounts from the realtor. Often these payments need to be finalized before the deal is considered ‘done and dusted’ or even before you are allowed to move in. 

4. Ongoing service fees possible on top of rent

Before you sign the lease make sure you are familiar with any service fees or extra costs added on beyond normal utilities you are responsible for. In the case of an apartment building where you are renting, if there are other services provided such as a gym, pool, parking, BBQ or office facilities, you may be required to pay an annual amenities fee. In addition you may have to pay a moving in fee.

For rental houses, where the landlord has a standing agreement with a provider of snow removal or gardening services, you may be asked to continue that agreement. This may be a negotiable point if you are happy to provide the services yourself.

Often, landlords expect the tenant to make a contribution to repairs and may ask for a specific dollar contribution for repairs to the toilet or other area which the tenant uses frequently. Read the rental lease carefully. Even though most people use a standard lease, there are often little extras and modifications added which are easily missed.


Snow removal can be done a few ways. You can hire someone with a snow-plough, a snow-blower, or even manual laborers who offer to shovel for cash-in-hand. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ



Landscaping services: usually this means gardening services. Many home owners use these regularly instead of mowing their own lawns or gardening. If these services are contracted, you may be expected to pick up the cost of these in addition to rent. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ


5. Don’t buy a refrigerator and washing machine

Rented houses usually come supplied with a refrigerator, washing machine and dryer included. So if you are moving here from another country, you will not need to layout extra money to purchase these. Most times, there is also a dishwasher and microwave provided too.

In nearly all apartments except older versions or very small apartments, these appliances are provided there too. Sometimes the washing machine and dryer may be located outside the apartment in a community laundry, although this is not the case with larger apartment complexes that are setup as communities or condominiums.


Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ


In both this article and a previous one, ‘4 Things to ask before renting a house in New Jersey’, I have tried to summarize as many tips as possible to help new expats who are thinking about renting in New Jersey. Undoubtedly, though, there are more tips to learn from others with longer experience in renting in NJ. So please feel free to add any of your own!



6 thoughts on “Four Must-know tips for Renting in New Jersey

  1. Great post. As an American living in the U.S. I forget about some of the things you covered. Take for granted not to buy a dryer. For anyone looking for new jersey apartments, make sure to visit Harrison Apartments. It is a beautiful building with a tennis court, pool, doorman and fitness center. Additionally, it is close to Rutgers University, The New Brunswick Station and St. Peter’s University Hospital. Close to parks and shopping. The setting and quality of life at Harrison Apartments can’t be beat.

  2. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I rented in New Jersey from three different landlords from 2006 up until I bought my own place toward the end of 2014. During that time…..

    1. I never carried renter’s insurance, nor was it required in the terms of any leases that I signed.

    2. Prior to each move, I paid the first month’s rent and security deposit with personal checks. Bank checks or cash was never required.

    3. The landlord paid the real estate agents’ commissions, both for their agent and for mine (when applicable, I don’t always work with an agent). In each case, the combined commission for the two agents was equal to one month’s rent. I would write the checks myself and, like you said, they were not necessarily divided equally between the two agents. Since I was writing personal checks, though, they just told me at the time of the lease signing how much to make out the checks for each agent. These payments were made in lieu of paying the first month’s rent to the landlord. So in effect, I paid the first month’s rent to the real estate agents instead of the landlord and then I started paying rent to the landlord at the start of the second month. So I guess I technically paid the agents’ fees, but it is the same net result as me paying the first month’s rent to the landlord and then the landlord giving that money to the agents…….so I really didn’t pay the agents’ fees in practice. The security deposit was 1.5 months rent as you stated.

  3. This is great information, thank you! We are trying to work out our finances….Can you tell me if there are additional property taxes or are these included in the rent? Are there any other fees additional to agents fees? how much are these usually? thanks in advance 🙂

    • Hi sorry for the very late reply!
      Property taxes are only charged to the house owner but they will be indirectly included in your rent (you wouldn’t know how much is property tax versus other though). However when property taxes go up in a town, the landlord will probably want to increase your rent to offset his/her increased expenses of managing the house.

      Fees for renting include:
      1. 1-1.5 months security deposit paid upfront
      2. 1 month agent fee (paid by tenant). In some areas the agents charge 10% of annual rent cost but this is limited to specific areas. I have only experienced this in Union County so far.
      3. 1 months rent up front
      4. Possible credit check $30-$40 usually but more if renting apartment in rental building – usually called application fee and includes credit check or criminal check, although total cost can be a lot higher e.g. up to $100 or more. The more modern the apartments, the higher the fees often!!
      5. Despite a previous commenter saying that renters insurance is not required, it nearly always is, as NJ real estate standard contract used by most realtors includes this as a standard clause. If not required, would still recommend getting it. Can vary between $150 annually to $250 upwards depending on amount of goods insured.
      6. Sometimes rent can include water, sewerage and/or internet but nearly always this is for apartments only, not rental houses
      7. Additional costs for houses beside utilities which might include gas, electricity, sewerage, water, internet, cable TV, phone (landline), trash removal; would be snow removal and gardening costs. These last two are usually optional depending on whether landlord has a contract for maintenance with external supplier which you are expected to keep up. Rarely there may be a home security fee for security services patrolling, house alarm maintenance etc.
      8. For apartment rentals only, in managed buildings, there other fees that can be charged including amenities fee, moving in fee, pet fee (if have pets). Apartment buildings like this are a bit like banks – good income stream from applying fees for every possible thing. Mostly these are not negotiable but always question if really applicable.

      Hope that helps!

  4. Thanks for this – we’re hoping to get an appartment or house to rent in the short term shortly. Are there any tips or helps – we are just west of Manhattan ideally – or updates? Thanks

    • Hi Andrew,
      You sound as if you might be thinking of Jersey City or Hoboken, which are both ideal for NYC commuters, as it is a simple train or ferry ride across the river to Manhattan from these two, so great for going out as well as work. Both areas have great vibes and a vast number of apartments for renting.

      A few quick tips:
      1. If you are going to live in Jersey City, make sure you stick to the north and north-eastern areas. Avoid Greenville and southern areas for living in, as these still have substantive crime, and perhaps not safe at night. Journal Square has improved a lot, however, no matter which town you live in, do visit the neighborhood at night to see how safe or sketchy the area is, in case you are walking home from the bus/train station in the dark. It is important to be comfortable where you live, so check it out during day, night and weekends.

      2. If you are not going to own a car, look how far it is to shop for groceries. There is always Uber, taxi or light rail but these are not always available everywhere. If you eat out a lot, then its probably not as important.

      3. Houses to rent are uncommon in both Hoboken and Jersey City, although they do exist. If you want more space, i.e. a backyard, you will probably need to move further west, to try to find something affordable that is safe, clean and well-kept.

      4. I would always recommend to get a realtor to help find the house you want and sometimes apartments. A tenant has to pay usually 1 month’s rent as commission to realtors involved (tenant realtor and landlord realtor). This is worth it for you if you don’t have time and they will match your requirements, saving a lot of time and above board. Important to pick a well-established realtor office in this case. If they feel shady when you meet them, drop them and find another.

      5. Be aware that many large newer apartments in both Hoboken and Jersey City deal directly with tenants through their leasing office, requiring no realtor involvement. You just go yourself, and the lease will be nearly always un-negotiable so read the fine print CAREFULLY. They will have set terms and be very transactional usually. There is always someone willing to rent their apartments so it can be competitive. However, away from these big powerful leasing offices, you can try to negotiate. A realtor can help with this a lot. Especially if seeking pets, changes such as painting, repairs. etc.

      6. When you inspect before signing, check everything works-wall sockets, oven lights, fans grills etc., air-con (its damn hot in summer in a stuffy apartment).Get m agreement in writing for repairs. You should also check if they provide standard safety fittings, equipment-smoke detectors, Carbon Dioxide monitors, safety covers for windows (if you have kids)

      7. Have your monies ready to pay for (a)realtor, (b)deposit /bond, (c) one month’s rent upfront when you start looking so you can settle quickly when you find something you like. You will also need Passport/visa copies (if you are an expat), proof of employment-ideally a letter from work on their letterhead, plus some referees. Ideally, have this all ready, so you can be quick to respond to opportunities. Sometimes the good ones go really quickly.

      Hope this all helps. If you need a realtor for the Hoboken/Jersey City areas, let me know if you need any names. I have a few friends who worked there.

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