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Law Offices of Samuel Z. Brown, PC

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Landlord Tenant Seminar Addressed Renting to “Illegal Aliens”

Recent legal seminar addressed landlord tenant issues, including the issue of renting to "illegal aliens."

Lakewood, NJ, September 28, 2006 --( Recently the Law Offices of Samuel Z. Brown, PC, in conjunction with the Community Legal Coalition, hosted a seminar on Landlord Tenant law. Several questions were raised during the course of the seminar about renting to “illegal aliens.” Samuel Brown, an attorney with the Law Offices of Samuel Z. Brown, PC, indicated that a landlord does not have a responsibility to determine the legal status of his tenant.

If a landlord has knowledge of the tenant’s illegal status, the landlord may be in violation under 8 U.S.C.A. 1324(a)(1)(A)(iii), which includes facilitating an aliens remaining in the United States illegally. However, if a landlord does not know and has no reason to know, then there is no proactive obligation for a landlord to conduct an investigation beyond his normal inquiries of a potential tenant (i.e. work history, credit check, etc.). 

Recently, towns such as Hazleton, Pennsylvania, and Riverside, New Jersey, have attempted to make renting to “illegal aliens” a punishable offense. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a ten count complaint in Pennsylvania, challenging the actions taken by the town of Hazleton. Its complaint alleges, in part, a violation of the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution, the due process clause, 42 U.S.C. 1981, and the Fair Housing Act (42 U.S.C. 3601 et seq.).

Notably, the complaint points out that in complying with these laws a person may violate other federal laws. For example, by requiring a landlord to establish whether or not a potential tenant is “illegal,” a landlord will need to demand and review documents for any person who he suspects to be illegal. The average person is not qualified to review documentation, such as a birth certificate, visa or passport, and ascertain its validity. This also places the landlord potentially in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1981, which prohibits discrimination based on alienage, specifically with regard to a persons fundamental right to contract. Additionally, this is a potential violation of 42 U.S.C. 3601 et. seq. (the Fair Housing Act), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin. Notably, New Jersey law parallels the federal law. N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(g) prohibits a landlord from discriminating against any person because of national origin. By requesting particular documentation from some potential tenants and not others, it exposes landlords to potential liability for violation of these other laws.

Currently there is no state law in New Jersey that bans a landlord from renting to an “illegal alien.” Nor has any state law required a landlord to ascertain the legal status of his tenant. Furthermore, federal law has never been interpreted so broadly as to require a landlord to request documentation from their potential tenants and ascertain the validity of the same.

For more information about this seminar, or any other seminar offered by the Community Legal Coalition, contact the Law Offices of Samuel Z. Brown, P.C. by visiting visit

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Law Offices of Samuel Z. Brown, PC
Amy Bennecoff, Esq.

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