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Landlord-Tenant Services2023-02-27T16:33:13+00:00

Landlord-Tenant and Ejectments

Representing Landlords in a State with Heavy Tenant Protections

From a regulatory standpoint, New Jersey is one of the toughest places to be a Landlord. You need legal representation that specializes in this area of law, and keeps current with the constantly changing laws and local jurisdictional rules.

Landlord-Tenant Law

Landlord-tenant law in New Jersey is extremely technical, and even a minor deviation from the strict requirements can cause your case to be dismissed entirely months after it is filed. Wasting time and losing you even more rent while you have to re-start the case from scratch. Hiring an attorney who can help you navigate this area of law will almost always end up saving you money.

  • The anti-eviction act. NJSA 2A:18-61.1 et seq covers residential tenancies in non-owner occupied buildings, and in owner-occupied buildings of 4 units or more. It states that a tenant in these circumstances can only be removed from an apartment for the specific “causes” listed in the anti-eviction act. It should be noted that the expiration of a lease is NOT one of those causes. In New Jersey, most residential leases just go month to month at expiration. You cannot evict an anti-eviction act protected tenant just because their lease expired. But you can raise their rent a “conscionable” amount, and you can propose “reasonable” changes to the terms of their lease at that time.
  • Exceptions to the anti-eviction act. NJSA 2A:18-53 et seq covers commercial leases, as well as residential owner-occupied 2 and 3 family houses, which are both exceptions to the anti-eviction act. In these circumstances leases can be terminated without needing any cause or reason once they expire. If not owner occupied, but the owner wants to occupy one of the units of a 1-3 family house or a condo unit, then a landlord can also have the tenant vacate at the end of the lease.
  • Venue. Most landlord-tenant cases are heard in special civil, landlord-tenant division, in what is called a “summary dispossess” case. But a possession case can also be plead in Law Division, which has some down sides but can be beneficial in some narrow circumstances.
  • Notices. Generally speaking notices must be in writing, served a certain way and must have certain language in them. Each cause the notice purports to advance requires different notice time periods, notice language, and in some circumstances specific service requirements. No notice is required before filing a nonpayment eviction, but an eviction for any other cause will require statutory notice(s) and they need to be attached to the complaint at the time you file the eviction.
  • Commercial and residential leases. There is certain language required for residential NJ leases to be enforceable, that is not required in any other states. It is our experience from reading literally thousands of leases our clients send us after the tenant is causing problems, that very few if any internet leases contain the required language. Even ones that specifically say “New Jersey Lease Agreement” on them, and even some of the ones you pay for online. If a commercial lease, it is even more important that you have representation, because failing to include certain language could be a violation of your mortgage agreement, or could make a property unsellable or un-refinanceable in the future.
  • Tenant buy-out agreements. These are generally done as “cash for keys” to be enforceable. It is very important that the agreement contain certain language to ensure the tenant can’t get back in even after taking the money and handing over the keys.
  • Rent control. Landlords often d0n’t know that their unit is or could be rent controlled, because it is not always clear whether a property is rent controlled and if it is, what the legal rent actually is. But not dealing with rent control properly can have severe negative consequences. We help our clients assess whether rent control applies and what their options are when it does.

Ejectments

Sometimes a person is occupying your property who is not a tenant. It could be a squatter, an unauthorized guest of a tenant who refuses to vacate after the original tenant vacates, someone who overstays on a use and occupancy agreement, or a friend/relative who you allowed to stay on your couch for a few days but now refuses to leave. It can be a relative of a deceased family member, who refuses to vacate their family member’s house to allow the estate to sell it. In fact there are a number of other situations where an ejectment is the appropriate way of removing a non-tenant from your property.

  • Ejectments are statutory in nature. Although originally a creature of the common law, NJSA 2A:35-1 et seq codified the requirements of an ejectment and set forth that they are to be heard by the special civil division. In practice they are usually heard by the same judge who hears the County’s landlord-tenant matters.
  • Ejectments are more complex than a landlord-tenant case. They involve pleadings and affidavits, and are more similar to litigation than a summary dispossess (eviction) case. So they are usually more expensive. However they are nowadays just as fast as an eviction, if not faster in many jurisdictions.
  • Ejectments allow you to recover your money damages. Unlike a summary dispossess eviction, you can obtain both a judgment for possession and a judgment for money damages in an Ejectment action.
  • Ejectments require that you never had a landlord-tenant agreement with the party you want ejected. If you ever accepted rent of any kind with the party being ejected, then they are probably technically tenants and need to be evicted through the summary dispossess statute – not through an ejectment. However if all they ever paid was their own cost for things like electricity or gas, you may still have a good argument that they can be ejected.

We specialize in all areas of real estate and probate law. If you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Call (201) 354-9305 now to speak directly with an attorney, or feel free to e-mail your inquiry directly to office@cecininilaw.com. We welcome your questions!

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