(PRWEB) October 22, 2007
New Jersey’s housing shortage has led to a great deal of new legislation aimed at limiting a landlord’s ability to evict a residential tenant. This article, provided by the Law Office of Michael D. Mirne (http://www.mirnelaw.com), is intended to help landlords sort through this process in order to make an informed decision should an eviction become necessary.
- The Protected Tenant: With very few exceptions, residential tenants are protected under the Anti-Eviction Act. Under this Act, residential tenants may be removed except for appropriate cause. A landlord may not evict a residential tenant merely because the lease has expired. In fact, even in cases where the tenant provides the landlord notice that he will be vacating the premises and then fails to do so, the Landlord may not evict the tenant. In other words, the residential tenant is, to the surprise of many landlords, protected for life.
- Reasons for Eviction: There are only seventeen reasons for which a landlord can evict a residential tenant in New Jersey. The vast majority of these complaints are filed for non-payment of rent. These evictions are relatively straight-forward and can be filed immediately upon non-payment. All evictions other than those for non-payment of rent require a landlord to first send the tenant certain notices prior to filing the action with the Court. These notices have very specific timing requirements as well as some detail requirements which often result in dismissals if not drafted properly. While landlords that are not corporations or limited liability companies are generally allowed to represent themselves in Court, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney prior to commencing any “notice” type case, due to the intricacy of the procedure.
- The “Lockout Process: Once the Court has decided a tenancy case in your favor, you may apply for a Warrant of Removal to have the tenant removed by a Sheriff’s Officer. As a practical matter, the landlord should be prepared to wait about two weeks from the date of trial until the tenant is locked out.
- Post-Judgment Relief: It should be noted that even after a lockout, the tenant may apply for a Hardship Stay to be able to remain in the apartment. There is a six month limitation on hardship stays, but tenant must stay current on rent in order to be eligible for this type of relief. Even in cases where the tenant cannot afford the rent that is due, the tenant may apply for an additional week to move out. This is called an application for orderly removal. In all cases, the Landlord should allow for about 10 days following the lock-out prior to re-renting the premises in order to ensure that a “stay application” has not been filed.
- What to Expect for Tenancy Court: Landlords who file tenancy complaints can generally expect the Court to hear the complaints within about weeks of the time you file them. While this is a rather speedy process, it is important to note that the Tenancy may only award eviction. It cannot issue a judgment for money damages. In fact, the only way that a Landlord may receive money in the tenancy Court is if the Tenant agrees to pay. The Landlord may commence a separate action in Small Claims Court (limit $3000) or Special Civil Part (limit $15,000) for recovery of unpaid rents.
- Abandoned Property: Finally, landlords very often ask what they should do with abandoned property. New Jersey law requires that before disposing of any abandoned possessions, the landlord must first provide the tenant with written Notice of his/her right to retrieve the possessions. The Notice should inform the tenant that the belongings may be discarded or sold if not claimed within 30 days. During this 30-day period, the Landlord is also required store the tenant’s belongings. Under the law, the landlord may charge the tenant reasonable fees for the storage, or in the event that the possessions are placed in a commercial storage facility, the landlord may seek reimbursement from the tenant.