NJ Landlord Tenant Lawyer

     Whether you are a landlord with bad tenant, or a tenant with a bad landlord, eviction actions can get very technical and nasty and it is best to be represented by an experienced eviction lawyer.

Evictions are legal proceedings brought by a landlord to remove a tenant from their property.  There are vast differences between commercial evictions and residential evictions.  Residential tenants have many legal protections against eviction, whereas commercial tenants have few.  Whether you are a tenant in fear of eviction or a landlord trying to evict, call today to speak to a NJ Landlord Tenant Attorney.

 

I have a tenant I want to evict, what do I do?

In order to evict a residential tenant, you need good cause, a list of the most common of which are below.  These causes to evict are also fully enumerated in N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11, these are our anti-eviction laws.  The most common and simplest reason to evict a tenant in NJ is for the non-payment of rent.  For all other reasons, the procedural requirements are more complicated and may require notices to cease / quit.  In all cases, an eviction attorney can help expedite the process enhance the chances of success.

 

I am being evicted, what do I do?

If an eviction action is brought against a tenant for simple non-payment of rent, they generally may just pay the rent owed and have the complaint dismissed.  In some cases, a tenant may be responsible for the landlord’s attorney’s costs and filing fees in addition to the back rent.  If the eviction is for any other reason, your defenses can be very fact dependent and you should speak directly with a landlord tenant attorney.  See below for examples of defenses to eviction in NJ.

 

What is the eviction process like?  What is the timeline, how long does it take?

An eviction action is usually scheduled for a hearing within a few weeks.  If the landlord is successful in their eviction action, they will be given a Judgment of Possession.  After 3 days have passed, the landlord may apply for a warrant for removal from the Clerk of the Special Civil Part.  The tenant must then have 3 more days to remove themselves and their property from the rental premises.  If the tenant has not moved by this time, you may have a sheriff’s officer to forcibly evict the tenant and change the locks.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the causes of action to evict a tenant in NJ?

Under the New Jersey Anti-eviction act, to evict a residential tenant under a lease you need good cause.  The most common of these are:

  • Failure to pay rent;
  • Tenant has habitually paid rent late;
  • Tenant has been disorderly and destroyed the peace and quiet of neighbors;
  • Tenant has negligently permitted damage to the property;
  • Tenant has violated the rules and regulations of the landlord, provided those regulations are reasonable;
  • Tenant has failed to pay rent after given a reasonable and rent increase;
  • Tenant fails to agree to reasonable changes to the lease terms;
  • Landlord seeks to move into the apartment or is selling to someone who seeks to do so.

For anything other than for failure to pay rent, there are notice requirements that must be provided to a tenant before a suit for eviction can be brought in the NJ courts.

How do security deposits work for rental / leased properties?

The maximum allowable security deposit for residential property can only equal one and a half (1.5) months rent.  This money must be deposited in an account and not be comingled with the owner / landlords personal monies.  The landlord must give the lessor the name and address of bank, type of account, interest rate, and the amount deposited within 30 days of receipt of the collateral and must give statements as to annual interest sums.

If these things are not done, the tenant must give written notice that the deposit plus 7% annual interest should be applied to rent.  After this, they may no longer have to leave a deposit with the landlord.  If notice is only pursuant to the required annual statement, tenant must give written notice allowing for 30 days to correct the situation.

When a lease ends, landlord must return deposit within 30 days by personal delivery or certified mail, less any reasonable charges and fees, and together with an itemized list of same.

Can a landlord evict a tenant to move family members into the home/unit?

Generally, unless the landlord lives in the home, and it is composed of 3 or less units, or is going to be moving into the unit themselves (rather than family members), this will not be grounds for eviction.  If a landlord claims this reason for the eviction and does not live in the unit for 6 months thereafter, the evicted tenant may be entitled to triple damages.  These damages can include moving costs, increased rent, attorney’s fees, etc.  If this situation has happened to you, call a NJ Landlord Tenant Lawyer immediately.  Hale v. Farrakhan is one of the seminal cases on this issue.

I didn’t pay rent because the apartment was uninhabitable, can I be evicted?

The court will hold what’s called a ‘Marini’ hearing to determine issues of habitability.  Tenants are permitted, in some cases, to withhold rent for habitability issues.  The most common of these issues include the heat or other utilities not working. Tenants, in appropriate circumstances, may deduct their reasonable costs to cure the issue if the landlord refuses. You need to first try to work it out with the landlord.  You are well advised to hire a landlord tenant attorney if you plan to assert this defense in court.  You will also be required to post all of the rent money in escrow with the court before being allowed to assert this defense.

What are some examples of how to defend against an eviction?

Eviction actions are very fact dependent and to know if your specific and generally should be brought to a landlord tenant attorney to help defend you.  Some examples might be to simply prove all rent was paid. Others might be proof that a landlord has not provided proper notice.

How does the return of Security Deposits work?

Landlords must return security deposits plus interest to tenants within 30 days of the termination of the lease.  A landlord may, however, withhold all or part of the monies for good cause.  Cause may be back rent, damage to the premises, etc.  If a landlord will not be returning any part of the deposit, they must provide the tenant with a written itemized list of any charges, deductions, and interest withheld.  This must be served personally or by registered / certified mail. In a residential tenancy, if a landlord fails to do this, the court may award to the tenant damages equal to double the security deposit properly owed to them (deposit minus sums reasonably owed to landlord).  The court may also award the tenant reasonable attorney’s fees incurred in collecting these monies.

How long before evicting a tenant in NJ do I have to provide a notice to cease?

Landlords must provide certain notices to tenants before they may file a complaint for eviction with the Superior Court.  These time limits are fact sensitive and you should contact a landlord tenant lawyer before proceeding.  The following is a brief and simplistic overview of when a notice to cease and / or a notice to quit must be provided, as governed by N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2:

  • For non-payment of rent - No notice required.
  • When a tenant is breaching the peace via disorderly conduct or destroying the property: A notice to cease must be given, laying out the reasons the tenant is believed disorderly.  A notice to quit must be served three days prior to filing.
  • When a tenant is damaging the property: A notice to quit must be provided three days prior to filing.
  • For Violations and breaches of the lease agreement, regulations or other covenants: A notice to cease should be provided first, laying out what the violations are and demanding they stop. A notice to quit should be provided at least one month prior to filing, and should be given before the start of a new month.
  • When a tenant refuses to accept reasonable rent increase: A notice to quit should be provided along with a notice of rent increase at least one month prior to filing.
  • When the tenancy is illegal: A notice to quit should be provided three months prior to filing.  Realistically this rarely happens.  Additionally, tenants in these situations will be owed by the landlord, 6 month's rent as relocation assistance.
  • When a tenant refuses to accept reasonable changes in the terms and conditions of the lease: A notice to quit must be served at least one month before filing.
  • For habitual late payment: A notice to cease must be provided at least one month prior to filing.  Additionally, this should be done more than once, as if this is the first time paying late, the case will most likely be dismissed if it is brought to court. A notice to quit must be provided at least one month prior to filing.
  • For landlords who are selling the building / property or moving into it personally: A notice to quit must be served at least two months prior to filing for an eviction.  
  • When a tenant has been convicted of drug offenses: A notice to quit must be served three days prior to filing.  If the defendant entered into a rehabilitation program or entered a diversionary program such as PTI or Conditional Discharge, this may not be grounds for eviction.  This cannot be used as grounds if it is more than two years since the conviction.

The home is owned and occupied by the landlord or his immediate family, what happens?

If the home is fewer than units total, the landlord is permitted far broader discretion to evict tenants.  The usual guidelines do not apply, and the landlord may give a one month notice to quit without good cause, so long as the lease period has expired.

Can a landlord evict a tenant for having pets?

It depends upon the wording of the lease or other evidence of agreement.  If a tenant moved in with a dog and the landlord knew about this and didn’t object, they normally won’t be able to force you to get rid of that particular dog.  You won’t be able to get other dogs, however.  If the pets are causing other trouble such as being loud, destroying property, or biting or threatening others, there can be other grounds for getting rid of the dog or evicting.  

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