Whether you are a tenant facing eviction or a landlord trying to evict a tenant, eviction is not an easy process. At the law firm of Himelman & Himelman, we are experienced in New Jersey eviction laws and processes and can help you resolve this complicated and stressful issue.
What is an Eviction?
An eviction is a court process through which a landlord can remove a tenant from a rented property. Evictions are governed by strict laws in New Jersey; the landlord must have proper grounds for eviction, and must provide the tenant with the proper notice and documentation before proceeding in certain circumstances.
Under What Circumstances Can a Landlord Evict a Tenant?
A landlord can attempt to evict a tenant if:
- The tenant has failed to pay rent.
- The tenant is consistently late in paying rent.
- The tenant has violated the terms of the lease.
- The tenant has regularly engaged in disorderly conduct.
- The tenant has damaged or destroyed property.
- The tenant has been convicted of a drug or other criminal charge.
According to NJ eviction laws, the landlord must first give a written warning called a Notice to Cease, and a Notice to Quit to the tenant prior to filing for an eviction if the tenant has not corrected their behavior. The amount of time required between the Notice to Quit and the eviction filing varies depending on the infraction.
It is important to know that a landlord cannot evict a tenant without first going to court and obtaining a court order known as a judgment for possession. Thereafter, the landlord must obtain a Warrant of Removal. It is illegal for a landlord to try to force a tenant out by:
- Changing the locks
- Padlocking the doors
- Turning off the water or electricity
- Any other means that prevent the tenant from entering or living in the property.
This is sometimes called a ‘self-help’ eviction. If a landlord attempts this, the tenant can take legal action against them, and it can severely hurt the landlord’s chances of legally evicting the tenant and may result in severe penalties against the landlord.
What Defenses Can a Tenant Use When Facing an Eviction?
In New Jersey, tenants have rights that must be observed, and defenses they can use if they are faced with eviction, including:
- The landlord did not follow the proper legal eviction procedures. As noted above, if a landlord did not provide the proper notice to cease, notice to quit, or has not obtained a judgment of possession and warrant for removal.
- The landlord is evicting the tenant based on racial, religious, gender, or any other type of discrimination. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits this.
- The landlord is evicting the tenant in retaliation for exercising a legal right, such as complaining to the landlord or a government agency about the condition of the property.
- The landlord’s accusation of rent non-payment is false or misleading.
- The landlord did not demand rent, refused to accept rent or was not available to be paid rent.
- The tenant is withholding rent because of unsafe or unacceptable living conditions or because the landlord refuses to make repairs.
- The landlord has not made a utility payment. A tenant can make a utility payment that the landlord has neglected to make and deduct it from the rent without penalty.
- The premises are not habitable in their current condition and must be made habitable to be lived in.
Contact Us Today to Discuss Eviction Laws
If you are a landlord seeking to evict a tenant, you must carefully follow the proper legal channels or risk the eviction case falling apart. If you a tenant faced with eviction, you must understand your rights and know what defenses are available to you. The real estate attorneys at Himelman & Himelman are experts in landlord/tenant matters and can help you understand the complex New Jersey eviction laws. Contact us today to discuss your options regarding eviction.