What Is the Eviction Process in New Jersey
Under New Jersey landlord tenant laws, there must be a good cause to evict a tenant. Any violation of the rental agreement or lease may qualify under this good cause section. The most common reason to have the cause to evict is for the nonpayment of rent. Even then, however, if rent funds were used to pay utility services, a landlord cannot actually evict a tenant after receiving a notice that services would be shut off. Any violation must be accompanied by an appropriate written notice that is delivered to the tenant. The amount of required time for this notice depends on the violation in question. In New Jersey, what is considered appropriate notice may be as short as 3 days or may require up to 3 years in specific situations.
Here is a brief rundown of the required notices that landlords must give tenants.
3 Day Notice. This is given for property damage, violence, employment contingencies, threatening a landlord, or drug convictions which involve the property.
14 Day Notice. This is for the nonpayment of rent, including rent that is habitually late.
30 Day Notice. This is for rental agreement violations that do not include health or safety violations by the tenant.
90 Day Notice. This is for all tenant health and safety violations.
18 Month Notice. Landlords may issue this notice if they plan to stop using a rental unit for residential use. A tenant does not need to be out of compliance for this eviction notice.
2 Year Notice. This is for tenants who have been convicted of any criminal activity.
3 Year Notice. This is for rental properties that are converting to cooperatives.
Once the proper notice has been served, a tenant has the right to get back into compliance. This is true even if the violations are habitual in nature. The only exception to this would be the “no cause” evictions which require more than 1 year of notice before eviction proceedings can begin.
Taking a Tenant to Court
Only the justice system in New Jersey has the authority to evict a tenant. This means a landlord must file a complaint with their local Office of the Special Civil Part Clerk. There is a filing fee associated with this action. A summons will be issued to the tenant at this point and a hearing date set to hear both sides of the eviction case. Landlords and tenants both have the right to present their case at trial. Written statements will not be heard by the court, so both parties must schedule any witnesses they wish to testify on their behalf. A judge will hear both sides of the case and issue a ruling. If a tenant prevails, then the eviction process must start over from the very beginning. If the landlord prevails, then the tenant can be forced off of the premises.
What Happens When an Eviction Order Is Enforced?
Tenants have 3 business days to move from a rental unit when they've lost an eviction case once a warrant for possession has been served. After 3 business days, landlords have the authority to change locks or have law enforcement come out to physically remove tenants. New Jersey prohibits landlords from taking possession of an evicted tenant's property. They are authorized to move any leftover belongings to a storage unit at the cost of the evicted tenant. This cost, along with any legal fees and past due rent, can become part of a separate financial judgment which may be issued. Even after a writ of possession is authorized, however, a tenant may still be able to stay in a rental unit for up to 6 additional months. In order for this to happen, the court must issue special permissions for the tenant to stay. All rent that is past due must be paid in full and any other court orders must be followed for this to be allowed.
What a Landlord Cannot Do
New Jersey does not allow any self-help eviction methods. Tenants can use any action that a landlord takes to evict them as an active defense in court. Retaliation through the form of eviction is also not allowed. If a tenant is not following the rental agreement or lease and that action qualifies under New Jersey landlord tenant law as a violation, then the eviction process can be started. These steps are just a brief outline of the process. For a complete look at the eviction process in New Jersey or to answer specific questions, be sure to look at the specific statutes which govern this area or speak with a knowledgeable attorney familiar with this situation.
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