New Jersey officials are cracking down on landlords violating a new state law meant to stop discrimination against formerly incarcerated people looking for housing.

The state Attorney General’s Office sent seven cease-and-desist letters to housing providers who posted apartment ads that explicitly banned residents with convictions from applying. That practice is now prohibited under New Jersey’s three-month-old law law that limits when landlords can run background checks.

“We are committed to ensuring that every New Jersey resident has a fair chance to find safe and affordable housing,” acting Attorney General Matt Platkin said in a statement. “If you are violating the law, we will seek you out, and we will hold you accountable.”

The law has been hailed by housing advocates as one of the most sweeping in the nation to eliminate automatic housing rejections for formerly incarcerated people. Supporters of the measure say it will begin to repair decades of housing inequities that disproportionately affect Black and Latino residents. New Jersey has the worst racial prison disparity in the country. Black people are incarcerated at 12 times the rate of white people — higher than the national average where Black people are jailed at five times the rate of white people, according to The Sentencing Project.

Under New Jersey’s Fair Chance in Housing Act, landlords now need to conditionally offer someone a unit before they can run a background check. They can still deny prospective tenants if the crime was committed within a specific timeframe or if they were convicted for major crimes such as murder or sexual assault.

More serious offenses such as carjacking can be considered within a six-year window. Offenses considered less serious, such as assaults, can be considered for one year after a person is released from prison. To deny an applicant under these restrictions, a landlord must fill out a form explaining the rejection and offer a chance for appeal. Arrests that didn’t lead to a conviction can’t be a reason for denial.

The housing providers cited by the state allegedly posted apartment listings that included phrases like “no prior criminal felony convictions on your record” or “no criminal records (no exception),” the attorney general’s Office said. Officials said they began a proactive search of listings on Zillow, Trulia, and Hotpads. The ads advertised units in West New York, South Bound Brook, East Orange, South Amboy, Lafayette, Phillipsburg and Jersey City.

“Hopefully this is a step that everyone moving forward now will understand that this law is active, it's real and the attorney general's Office is coming for you,” said James Williams, director of racial justice policy for the Fair Share Housing Center. “Hopefully, the small pool can be enough to tip the others to get their act together.”

Real estate agents, landlords or housing providers can learn more about the new law by signing up for the state’s upcoming online webinars. The AG’s office said residents can also report any violations of the law online at or call 973-648-2700.