Summertime at the Shore: NJ Limits Realtor’s Duty for Rentals

Bad enough the real estate market has been in tatters for the last few years. Realtors have also faced expanding liability to entirely new classes of plaintiffs during this time period. Does their duty of care extend to a family that rents a summer shore house for a mere 2 weeks?

A half-hearted “no,” according to the New Jersey Supreme Court. In an unusual procedural twist, the justices split 3 to 3 (with one justice obstaining), a result that led to the affirmance of the appellate division decision dismssing the case. The Supreme Court noted that the renters had been in the rental home for 9 days before the accident occurred, more than enough time to observe the alleged defectively designed deck stairs. Focusing on the tenant’s opportunity to inspect the premises, the majority stressed that it did not seek to absolve tenants from “personal responsibility for awareness of their surroundings and the dangers inherent in those surroundings.”

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