April 16, 2024

Landlord Eviction Process in New Jersey: A Comprehensive Guide

Steadily's blog cover page for information around landlord insurance.

Going through an eviction process in New Jersey is an unpleasant experience, more so for the landlord, as the state laws are lenient towards the tenant. Landlords should consider alternative options and a settlement with the tenant to avoid the lengthy New Jersey eviction process. Protect your assets and financial interests by choosing the right New Jersey landlord insurance coverage for your property.

If the landlord has to evict a tenant, the New Jersey eviction process is swift. Among the top reasons for a proprietor to evict a tenant is when there is a violation of the rental agreement.

Though tempting, a landlord might want to evict a tenant without issuing the tenant proper notice.

What are the Grounds for Tenant Eviction

The eviction process in New Jersey demands that a landlord must have justifiable reasons. These are the legal causes for evicting a tenant:

  • Tenant doesn't pay rent
  • The landlord wants to sell the rental property. (Lease termination notice)
  • Employment termination ends the rental agreement (legal eviction)
  • Tenants that habitually pay rent late
  • Failure to honor lease expiry and staying on the rental property long after
  • Violating terms signed on the lease agreement
  • Discontinuance of use
  • When the landlord chooses to convert the
  • Converting the rental property to condominiums (Condos are owned, and apartments are rented.)
  • The tenant doesn't pay rent because it has increased
  • Tenant engaging in illegal activity and substantial violations

After satisfying one or more of these legal breaches, the landlord can move to serve the tenant with an eviction notice.

The following is the step-by-step eviction process in New Jersey

1. Issuing a Notice

Before you evict a tenant in New Jersey, you should issue them a notice to quit (notice to cease). The notice to quit document warns the tenant to change their habits or face an imminent eviction.

You can issue a notice to cease under these circumstances:

  • Non-payment of Rent—In New Jersey, landlords don’t need to issue a written notice and can file an eviction lawsuit immediately for nonpayment of rent. However, they should issue a 30-day notice to a tenant who doesn't pay rent on time if they have accepted late payments from the tenant.
  • NJ eviction laws allow leaseholders a five-day grace period to pay rent (excluding weekends and holidays) from the first of every month.
  • Lease Violation: A written notice is necessary, as is a 30-day written notice to quit warning if a tenant violates the signed lease agreement. The notice also applies to new or reasonable lease changes issued a month before its implementation.  
  • Disorderly Conduct:  Jersey landlords can issue a 3-day written notice to tenants who are a danger to themselves and other tenants or cause major property damage to the rental unit and surrounding units.
  • Month to Month: A 30-day notice to quit is necessary both ways if the tenant and landlord want to end the month-to-month agreement mutually and stop paying rent.
  • Illegal Activity: Landlords in New Jersey can issue a 3-day written notice to quit if they can prove a tenant is engaging in an illegal activity within the premises. Examples of illegal activities include theft, consumption/distribution/ manufacturing of drugs, human trafficking, assault, etc.

Notice to Evict Without Cause

In New Jersey, there are instances when the landlord can issue a written notice to evict a tenant who hasn't breached the terms of the lease. However, it depends on the tenancy agreement.

Month-to-Month Tenancy

A Jersey landlord who wishes to end a monthly tenancy should issue a 30-day notice to the tenant not to pay rent in the coming month because they should vacate.

If the occupant disregards the written notice and continues to stay on the rental property, the landlord should file an eviction lawsuit against the holdover tenant.

Fixed Term Lease: The New Jersey laws have a fixed lease or rental agreement that can cover periods between 6-12 months. If the landlord and tenant enter into such an agreement, the Jersey proprietor isn't required to issue a written notice to the renter.

However, the landlord should issue a notice if the terms of the lease agreement demand it. If the lease period expires and the tenant fails to vacate even after getting notice from the landlord, an eviction lawsuit is the next viable option.

2. Tenant Response to an Eviction Notice 

The New Jersey eviction process timeline is lengthy and tedious, especially if the tenant has eviction complaints. A written notice to quit can have a positive outcome where the tenant obliges and ceases to violate the terms of the lease agreement.

If the occupant fails to respond to the eviction request, the landlord should move to court and start the forceful eviction process of the tenant from the rental property.

For issues of nonpayment of rent, a tenant notice isn't necessary, and the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit immediately.

New Jersey Court Filing Process

The eviction proceedings start by a filing fee is affordable for landlords, and it should be at most $50. The processing time to receive a court hearing ranges between 2-3 weeks. You can file eviction cases under the Superior Court Special Civil Part Offices.

Pertinent Forms the Landlord should File

  • Verified Complaint:  The landlord starts by filing a proper notice to the tenant expressing his or her accurate displeasure with the tenant's violation of the lease agreement. If the reasons aren't limited to nonpayment of rent, all the notices should be attached to the form, justifying why the court should assist in evicting the tenant.
  • Summons: A summons document is filed together with the verified complaint and issued to the tenant in violation. The summons-to-court document bears the date and time for the hearing and gives the tenant time to prepare a defense.

3.   Serving the Tenant 

After the New Jersey court grants the summons and complaint, the landlord should serve the tenant. The options include having a court officer hand the document to the tenant, post it to the door of the occupant, or leave it to a person aged 14 and above.

4.   The Hearing

As the court date approaches, the burden of proof lies with the landlord. The New Jersey eviction laws require that they prove all the claims they have against the tenant. Landlords can present witnesses, but they must provide their testimony physically, as written testimonies aren't acceptable.

The landlord should also bear relevant documents that include;

·     The signed lease agreement

·     Receipts of paid rent

·     notice demanding rent payment

·     bounced checks

·     ledgers for repairs, etc

Tenant Defenses

The New Jersey eviction process is lenient towards tenants when it comes to an eviction lawsuit. It's illegal for a landlord to use self-help eviction methods, and this can be grounds for a tenant to disregard a proper eviction notice.

Here are the New Jersey tenant defenses:

  • Failure of the landlord to issue a proper notice
  • The landlord locked out the tenant from accessing the rental property
  • The landlord forcefully evicted the tenant by shutting off utilities like electricity, water, and other essentials
  • The nonpayment of rent was a protest to uninhabitable living conditions
  • Retaliatory measures from the landlord because the tenant confronts them or reports the rental violations to authorities.
  • The landlord's discriminatory bias towards the tenant's race, religion, disability, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

According to New Jersey law, disorderly landlords that use self-help eviction methods can face consequences, including paying fines or serving a jail term.

5. How to Obtain a NJ Judgment for Possession

If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the court will issue a Judgment of Possession and order the tenant to vacate the rental property. If the holdover tenant refuses the order, the landlord should file for a warrant of removal with the court's clerk to legally evict the tenant.

After the court issues a warrant of removal, the landlord will receive assistance from a court representative (Special Civil part officer) who will forcibly evict a tenant on behalf of the landlord.

Note that the landlord should seek the warrant of removal within 30 days after the release of the judgment of possession order. The Warrant of Removal is only actionable within three days after issue. 

Tenant Options after the Hearings

If the landlord fails to present a strong eviction complaint, the tenant wins and can continue to stay on the rental property, adhering to the lease terms. If the tenant loses, they can opt for an appeal, and the landlord can begin the eviction process. It's advisable to seek the services of an attorney for the appeal, as the New Jersey court appeal process can be complicated for a layperson.

The tenant can avoid eviction by paying all the rent owed and fees. Alternatively, the renter can request the court for more time to move. The court can grant the occupant an orderly removal, which allows the tenant up to seven business days to vacate the rental property.

Finally, the tenant can ask the court to grant them a hardship stay. It applies if the tenant is willing to pay back all the rent owed plus fees but isn't able to pay within three days after the court judgment.

A hardship stay can last up to six months, providing the tenant with enough time to be able to pay all monies owed to the landlord. 

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