New Jersey Eviction Process: What You Need To Know

Being a landlord sometimes isn’t an easy job. You might have thought you found some great tenants to rent your New Jersey property, and the first few months were fine. Then rent payments started to be late every month, or the neighbors started to notice a lot of people living at the residence or loud parties on the weekends, which are grounds to evict your tenant. In these types of situations, it’s good to know your rights as a landlord and how the eviction process works in New Jersey. But what is an eviction, what does the eviction process in New Jersey look like, how has COVID 19 affected evictions in NJ, and are there ways to prevent eviction? All are great questions to ask and ones which we’ll cover in the article. So let’s get started.

What You Need To Know About The Eviction Process In NJ

Notice to vacate - Eviction Process in NJ

What is an Eviction?

Investopedia defines eviction as “the civil process by which a landlord may legally remove a tenant from their rental property.” An eviction might occur when the terms of the rental agreement are breached, when the tenant stops paying rent, or in other situations permitted by law. Individual states and certain municipalities govern evictions in the United States. Landlords are usually required to inform tenants by law that they are being evicted with a notice in person or by mail that specifies the number of days and the reason why before eviction proceedings begin.

An eviction is a way for a landlord to remove their tenant from their property when there is cause to, with the help of the legal system. But evicting your tenant is a process that can be time-consuming and will need to be done correctly for you to win your case. So you’re probably wondering, how long does an eviction take? Typically evictions in New Jersey can take 3 weeks to 4 months, depending on the reason for the eviction. However, if eviction paperwork and protocol aren’t done correctly, this can put you back at square one again. So understanding the eviction process in New Jersey is important to successfully evict your tenants.

Eviction Process in New Jersey

The eviction process in New Jersey isn’t too complicated, but it will be important to follow all the rules and procedures when attempting to evict a tenant in New Jersey. The first thing you will need to do is figure out is if any type of notice is required before filing for eviction. There are a few types of notices required under New Jersey eviction laws and various time requirements depending on the reason for eviction.

  • No Notice Required

The only violation in which no notice is required under New Jersey eviction laws is for non-payment of rent. This means you are able to file for eviction as soon as a rent payment is late. You don’t have to send your tenant a notification that you will be filing for an eviction. However, the best course of action is to give your tenant a chance to pay you before proceeding with a court eviction, and if applicable, you should honor your lease grace period. Also, if rent is federally subsidized, a 14-day notice is required. 

  • 3-Day Notice is Required For
    • Destruction or Damage of Property
    • Disorderly Conduct
    • Conviction of a drug offense that was committed on the property 
    • Tenancy based on employment that has since been terminated (for example, on-site property manager) 
    • Conviction of threatening or assaulting the landlord, his/her family, or his/her employees 
    • Civil court action that holds tenant liable for involvement in criminal activities
    • A conviction for theft of property  
  • 14- Day Notice
    • Only required if rent is federally subsidized (Section 8)
  • 1-Month Notice
    • Failure to accept reasonable change in lease
    • Failure to pay rent increases 
    • Violation of lease covenants 
    • Substantial violation of Landlord Rules and Regulations
    • Tenant habitually pays rent late
  • 3-Month Notice
    • Health/Safety Violations and Removal from Rental Market 
  • 18-Month Notice
    • Must be given if you (the landlord) want to permanently remove the home from residential use
  • 3-Year Notice
    • Must be given if the rental is being converted to a Condo

Types of Notices

Under New Jersey eviction law, there are two types of notices. Below are the proper definitions and when to use them. 

Notice To Cease

The Notice to Cease tells your tenant to stop violating rental provisions or acting disorderly. This is basically a warning to your tenant. If your tenant stops the action specified in the Notice To Cease, then you will not proceed with pursuing the eviction.

This particular notice is required before filing for eviction under the following circumstances:

  • Damage or Destruction of Property
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Violation of Lease Covenants
  • Substantial violation of Landlord Rules and Regulations
  • Tenant habitually pays rent late

In other states, this is called a “Notice to Cure” or “Cure Or Quit.”

This notice should include specific details to leave no doubt in the tenant or judge’s mind about what the tenant needs to cease. So make sure to include the following:

  • The date the Notice is served
  • Signature of the person serving the notice
  • Name of the tenants listed on the lease
  • Property Address
  • Which New Jersey Eviction Law specifically applies to your situation
  • All relevant dates and specifics regarding their violations 
  • A clearly stated intention to pursue an eviction if the violation isn’t corrected

If your tenant continues with the lease violation, then you will follow up with a Notice To Quit.

Notice To Quit

A Notice To Quit tells the tenant that you are ending the lease and intend to evict them. Although, the tenant is not required to move until the eviction process is complete and the Sheriff comes to remove the tenant. Landlords are prohibited from taking Self-help measures to evict their tenants in New Jersey. Any Landlord who engages in Self-help is considered a “disorderly person,” which is a criminal offense that is subject to up to six months in jail. So if you try to take matters into your own hands and start shutting off utilities or changing locks before the eviction process is complete, you can be held liable. 

The Notice To Quit should include these items:

  • The date the Notice is served
  • Signature of the person serving the notice
  • Name of tenants listed on the lease
  • Property Address
  • The specific reason or reasons why the lease agreement is being terminated by the landlord
  • The amount of days the tenant has to fix the problem/issues before eviction proceedings begin
  • The specific date the tenant will need to leave the property if the issue is not resolved
  • A statement of “Demand for Possession”

How to Serve a Notice (Cease or Quit)

New Jersey law says Notices shall specify in detail the cause of the termination of tenancy and shall be served either personally to the tenant or lessee or such person in possession by giving him/her a copy of the notice, or by leaving a copy of the notice at his/her usual place of abode with some member of the family that is above the age of 14 years old, or by certified mail. In such case that the certified letter is not claimed, notice shall be sent by regular mail.

So, in other words, you can either serve it in person to the tenant or a resident older than 14 years old or by certified mail with a return receipt or regular mail if the certified mail is refused. 

Usually, people use an independent 3rd part to deliver the notice in person and obtain a signature. This scenario ensures your complaint is not thrown out of court due to failure to prove the notice was properly served. 

File For Eviction 

Once that’s done and the correct time frame has lapsed, you can proceed with filing an eviction. The eviction must be filed in the Landlord/Tenant Section of the Special Civil Part court in the county where the rental property is located in New Jersey. You will need to file a verified complaint form that details the eviction reasons (non-payment of rent or other reasons). You will also need to fill out a notice of Summons and Return of Service form and Certification form. You will need to also have this information to include:

  • Your name, address, and contact information (may be referred to as the plaintiff) 
  • The tenant’s name and address (may be referred to as the defendant)  
  • Information specific to the reason you (the landlord) are filing the complaint
  • Attach all relevant notices previously sent to the tenant

Don’t forget to make two copies of all forms for each defendant.

Remember you will need to comply with the New Jersey Landlord Identity Law to pursue an eviction in New Jersey. Be sure to register as a landlord of your case will be dismissed until you have done so. 

Go To Court

After all the property paperwork has been filed, the Landlord will be notified of the court date. This is usually 2-3 weeks from the complaint filing, depending on the backlog of court proceedings. Something to keep in mind New Jersey eviction laws favors the tenant, so one little mistake could set you back significantly. Hiring a lawyer is always helpful when in this particular situation to ensure the steps you’re taking will result in a favorable outcome.

The next thing that you will need to do is go to court. Make sure you come prepared to win your case and have all the correct documents with you. Just make sure to bring everything and anything that provides evidence for your case and what you claimed in your paperwork. Say you’re filing for non-payment of rent, you will need to be equipped to show what your rent collection process is and how the tenant failed to pay per the lease agreement. Here are some other things to have with you just in case:

  • A copy of your deed for the property
  • Copies of the signed lease between you and the tenant
  • Copies of all the eviction forms
  • Any Rent Collection Ledgers
  • Copies of all communication with the defendants
  • Photos providing evidence of damages or lease violations
  • Repair estimates or receipts
  • Other evidence of tenant violations

Special Note- you cannot bring written statements to the court. You will have to arrange to have a witness present if you need to rely on a witness’s statement to prove your case.

On the day of the trial, both the landlord and tenant must be present in court at the date and time specified on the court summons. If the renter doesn’t appear, the judge will issue a default in the landlord’s favor. If you (the landlord) fail to appear, the case will be dismissed. A few ways you can help your case are to:

  • Come prepared with documentation 
  • Check your emotions 
  • Lineup witnesses 
  • Lawyer up
  • Dress the part; business casual would be appropriate
  • Wait your turn to speak 

After the case is heard and is ruled in your favor, the judge will issue a judgment for possession. However, this isn’t the end of the eviction process. If your tenant has still not vacated after the judgment, you will need to follow these next steps.

File a Warrant For Removal

If they still haven’t left, you will need to wait three weekdays- not including the days of the judgment or holidays- to file for a Warrant For Removal. Next, the Warrant For Removal will then be served to the tenant by a court-appointed officer and gives your tenant three choices:

  1. Move out within three days (excluding weekends and holidays)
  2. Contest the warrant (only if the renter has paid all past rent due)
  3. Be evicted by the court-appointed officer

Special Note – A landlord cannot wait more than thirty days (30) from the day of the ruling to ask for the Warrant For Removal, or the process will have to be started over.

After the judgment, your tenant can still delay the eviction further by applying for a Stay of the warrant, which buys them more time to move out. Stay of the warrant could include:

  • Petition of orderly removal which gives them an extra 7 days to move out with good reason why they can’t be out in time. And unfortunately, the tenant is not required to pay rent for those extra days. 
  • Hardship Stays- the court can grant them an extra 6 months to live there if the tenant shows they cannot find another place to live. They will have to agree to pay rent during the time the hardship is in place. So if your tenant is evicted due to non-payment of rent, they will have to pay the back rent and agree to continue paying future rent before being eligible for the Hardship Stay. 
  • Stays For Terminal Illness- This is pretty rare, but the court can grant the tenant an additional 12 months if they can prove that they have a terminal illness. But they would have to have lived in the unit for at least 2 years prior and be current on rent payments.

Surprisingly, there is still even one more last-ditch effort your tenant can try, which is to pay all past due rent plus court costs, which usually sways the judge to vacate the eviction.

At the end of the day, the New Jersey eviction process can be time-consuming and expensive. It is estimated to cost $5,000 to evict a tenant, and that isn’t including home repairs. It would be in your best interest and your tenants to try to avoid the eviction process if possible. We’ll cover more about preventing eviction further below.

Tenants Rights During COVID 19

COVID 19 and Eviction Process

One question a lot of New Jersey residents are asking is how has COVID-19 affected evictions in NJ? Currently, no one may be removed from their home for an inability to pay rent during the COVID-19 emergency. This is called an “eviction moratorium,” and means that no tenant may be removed from his or her home due to an eviction proceeding, with rare exceptions for cases such as when a tenant is endangering other tenants or is violent. 

The New Jersey Supreme Court controls court proceedings related to eviction and has suspended all eviction proceedings at this time. This means that you (the landlord) can’t take your tenant to court at this time, but you will be able to once the courts reopen. Currently, the eviction moratorium will last until two months after Governor Murphy declares an end to the COVID-19 health crisis unless the Governor issues another Executive Order to end it sooner. So, unfortunately, evictions are currently at a standstill, but there are other ways you can prevent the need for an eviction. 

Preventing Eviction

Ultimately an eviction should be considered a last resort. Of course, if your tenant is conducting drug deals in the home or causing bodily harm or damage to the property and won’t leave, that’s another story. The best way to prevent these types of scenarios and find a good tenant is to do a thorough screening process before renting; having a history of the tenant can be a good indication of future behavior. This will help you weed out potential tenants who show major red flags like previous evictions, poor credit, moving too often, etc. 

Another thing that would be good to have initially is a custom lease. A lease can often decide the outcome of tenant disputes, so it’s important to have a state-compliant, strong, custom agreement. For more helpful tips for landlords in New Jersey check out this helpful article. 

Ultimately, even if you make every effort to find a good tenant, things can happen that lead to needing to evict. If and when they do, try to talk to your tenant first to prevent eviction. The sooner they understand it would be in their best interest to leave, the better off you would be financially and mentally. And hopefully, your tenant will want to work with you, too, because if you win the eviction, they (the tenant) could end up paying for your (the landlord’s) court and attorney fees. Not to mention they could receive a negative credit rating making it harder for them to rent again. 

If your tenants don’t want to cooperate with you and things are at a standstill, you can always consider selling your rental property instead. There are actually buyers out there who purchase houses as-is, problem tenants included. You will have to notify your tenants about your intentions to sell and that you will need to show the property, but besides that, you can sell your rental property with tenants still in it. 

One such buyer that purchases rental properties with this unique selling situation is Halo Homebuyers. Halo Homebuyers is a cash homebuyer that purchases properties all over the New Jersey area. Their home buying process is very simple and includes a fast closing process too. You can actually get a free estimate over the phone, and they do not charge commissions or fees. They will even pay closing costs. 

Selling a rental property can be a hassle that involves expensive repairs and getting your tenants to move out for you to be able to sell the traditional way. Instead, sell directly to Halo Homebuyers as-is, no repairs or renovations necessary. 

Conclusion 

If you’re going through the eviction process or dealing with a problem tenant, it can be stressful. It’s important to have the correct documentation and follow all the rules and regulations regarding eviction in New Jersey to win your case. But ultimately, you may have to sacrifice some time and money to successfully evict your tenant. Just try to do the best you can and always seek a lawyer’s advice to help you with your case. Having two sets of eyes on the situation wouldn’t hurt. And if all else fails, or if you don’t want to go through the New Jersey eviction process or wait until the eviction ban is lifted, you can always sell the property to Halo Homebuyers and move on to better things.

The material and information in this article are for general information purposes only. You should not rely upon the material or information within this article as a basis for making any business, legal or financial decisions. Be advised to seek the advice of a New Jersey landlord and tenant attorney regarding your landlord rights and your lease agreement.

Kevin Sun

Kevin is a real estate investor dedicated to helping homeowners sell their properties quickly and without the stress and hassle of a traditional listing.

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