What’s the deal with evictions in New Jersey?
It may be wishful thinking to assume that every new tenant is ideal, paying on time and causing no damages or problems. Unfortunately, a landlord may encounter a situation where it’s necessary to evict a tenant in New Jersey.
In New Jersey, a landlord must have one of several “good cause” reasons to evict a tenant. Except in cases where the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord must outline the causes in written form known as a “notice to quit.”
What are some reasons I can evict a tenant?
If you believe you need to start an eviction in NJ because you’ve got the “worst tenant ever”, you might get an argument from Mike Sorrentino’s landlord Pat Giganti. The New Jersey reality TV star famous for his wild antics was accused of “trashing a rental home” and falling behind on his rent payments. Irresponsibility from the Jersey Shore’s “Situation”? Hold back your shock and awe!
The landlord’s complaint was ultimately dismissed, despite the fact that Sorrentino supposedly damaged the pool liner and put holes in the wall. Even though Sorrentino’s case might seem extreme, plenty of landlords have been surprised to learn the liberties tenants have taken with a property. Knowing how to handle a renter that’s out of control could help you streamline the NJ eviction process so that you can put the nightmare behind you.
What are some reasons I can evict a tenant?
Hopefully you never have a tenant like “The Situation,” but if you do, it’s helpful know the list of reasons you can pursue an eviction in the state of New Jersey. They are as follows:
- Disorderly conduct, and/or disturbing the peace and quiet of other tenants
- Property damage and destruction
- Health and safety violations
- Violation of the lease, regulations or landlord’s rules
- Failure to pay increased rent
- Failure to pay rent habitually paying it late
- Landlord intention to cancel any residential use of the property
- Conversion to co-op or cooperative or tenancy after the conversion has happened
- Tenant refusal to accept changes in the terms and conditions of the lease
- Tenancy contingent on employment with the landlord that has now terminated
- Illegal activity including a drug conviction or offense on the property, or a conviction related to threatening/assaulting the landlord, their employees, or their family
- Court action finding the tenant liable for criminal activity involvement
- Convictions for theft of property
Are there situations in which I cannot evict a tenant?
- A landlord cannot evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent if the unpaid rent portion was used to pay electric, water, gas, or sewer services after receiving a notice that these services would be shut off and the landlord was responsible for making these payments.
- A landlord cannot try to evict a tenant for failing to pay increased rent if the new rent goes against any municipal ordinances or laws or is deemed to be “unconscionable.”
What is the process normally like?
Although it might be tempting to take the tenant to court right away, this can generate a lot of hassles and costs that a landlord may not be expecting. It’s a good guideline to try and work things out on your own first. Mediation may be another alternative that helps you keep your cost and time commitment to a minimum while encouraging resolution.
Bear in mind that several illegal eviction processes, like changing the locks or turning off the electricity, can actually set your case back.
The eviction process has several standard stages.
- Provide appropriate notice:
- Three year notice for conversion to co-op
- Two year notice for court action finding the tenant liable for criminal activity involvement
- 18 month notice for landlord intention to cancel residential use of the property
- 90 day notice for tenant health and safety violations
- 30 day notice for violation of landlord’s rules, violation of lease, or refusing to accept changes to lease terms.
- 14 day notice for failure to pay rent or habitual late payments
- 3 day notice for disorderly conduct, property damage and destruction, tenancy contingent on employment that has now terminated, conviction of a drug offense, conviction related to threatening or assaulting the landlord, and convictions of theft or property
- File a complaint with the Office of the Special Civil Part Clerk in your county and pay the filing fee.
- Prepare for the trial, including working with any witnesses (written statements cannot be used in court). Make sure you have outlined your questions well in advance
- Receive judgment for possession, if granted. This allows the landlord to force the tenant off the premises. This can only be issued three business days after the judgment for possession has been granted. If the tenant petitions for and receives special permission to stay, all rent due must be paid and the premises may not be used for more than six months.
- If the tenant does not move within three days after the warrant for possession was served, the landlord can evict or lock out the tenant.
- A landlord cannot keep the tenant’s belongings, but he or she can arrange for storage. The tenant may be responsible for costs associated with legal fees and storage.
Where can I learn more?
If you have any questions, or think you may want to start the eviction process with a tenant in New Jersey, please consult a lawyer.
- New Jersey Eviction Laws
- New Jersey Grounds for Eviction Bulletin
- NOLO Guide to Tenant Defenses to Eviction in New Jersey