Evicting a Tenant in New Jersey
Generally, a Tenant may be evicted in New Jersey for the following reasons:
1. Failure to Pay Rent
2. Continued Disorderly Conduct
3. Destruction or Damage to Property Caused Willfully by Gross Negligence
4. Habitual Lateness in Paying Rent
5. Violation of Rules and Regulations, after written notice to comply, as outlined in a Lease or other document
6. Tenant Conviction for a Drug Offense
The initial step in the eviction process is to send the Tenant a Notice to Quit or a Notice to Cease outlining the reasons the Tenant is in violation of the Lease and informing the Tenant of the intent to file an eviction complaint if the Tenant does not comply with the rules and regulations.
The next step is to file an Eviction Complaint in the Special Civil Part Office in the County where the property is located.
A Landlord or Tenant who is a Corporation of Limited Liability Company MUST BE REPRESENTED BY AN ATTORNEY.
On the date of the Eviction Hearing, the Landlord must be ready to prove the allegations made in the Eviction Complaint. All witnesses should be present in Court on that date. (Written Statements by such witnesses cannot be used in Court without the Witness present).
The Landlord also needs to bring Leases, Estimates, Bills, Rent Receipts and Ledgers;
Dishonored Checks; Letters written to the Tenant and photograhs or any other documents proving the Landlord's claim.
If the Tenant fails to appear on the day of the hearing, the Landlord will be entitled to a Judgment for Possession.
If the Tenant appears, the Court will ask the Landlord and Tenant to participate in a Mediation session to see if the matter can be resolved. If not, there will be a trial and if the Tenant loses, the Landlord will be entitled to a Judgment of Possession.
Once the Landlord obtains the Judgment of Possession, the Landlord must then file for a Warrant of Removal. The Landlord may not personally evict a tenant. The Eviction must be carried out by an Officer of the Special Civil Part (usually the County Sheriff) and there is a fee for the Sheriff's services which must be paid by the Landlord. The Warrant for Removal will be issued after the expiration of three (3) business days.
A Landlord MAY NOT remove a Tenant's belongings from the premises without first obtaining a Judgment for Possession and a Warrant for Removal. A Landlord also MAY NOT force a Tenant out by refusing access, shutting off utilities, changing locks or padlocking a rental premises. A Landlord MAY NOT take possession of the personal belongings of a Tenant in an attempt to force a Tenant to pay rent. (If a Landlord illegally evicts a Tenant, the Tenant could file a Complaint against the Landlord asking the Judge to allow the Tenant back into the rental premises and the Tenant may be entitled to money damages against the Landlord.
Prior to filing an eviction complaint, the Landlord needs to be in compliance with all of the Landlord obligations as outlined in the Lease; the Landlord Registration Statement needs to be filed with the Town; and the Security Deposit needs to be in an interest bearing account and the Tenant needs to be provided a Notice in Writing as to the name of the bank where the deposit is held. (If the Landlord is not in compliance with these rules and regulations, the Landlord's Complaint may be dismissed).
Generally, from the time the Landlord is harmed by the Tenant's failure to pay rent, a Notice to Cease is prepared and served upon the Tenant, a complaint is filed and a hearing date is scheduled and the Sheriff executes the Warrant for Removal, it could be a few months. Therefore, it is important for a Landlord to properly screen tenants prior to signing a Lease and to act as quickly as possible when Tenant is not in compliance with the Landlord's rules and regulations.
If you need assistance with Evicting a Tenant or drafting a proper New Jersey Lease, please contact me so that we may discuss your matter.
Dornishlaw1@ptd.net or 908-537-7975