New Jersey eviction laws to evict a tenant vary from court to court, but they still follow the same general eviction process:
- Send a clear written eviction notice
- Fill out the forms
- Serve the tenant
- Attend the trial
- Wait for judgment
The State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs is usually the one that manages and holds the rulings on eviction cases.
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that could be exploited by the tenant, especially the history of rent payments.
Filing an eviction takes time and patience. Going to court may be a long and tedious experience for landlords who handle multiple properties.
Most landlords are advised to try to work things out with a tenant outside court. It is only in extreme cases when a landlord resorts to filing for official eviction proceedings.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your justice court to make sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.
Landlords may also ask for legal advice from an attorney.
In the state of New Jersey, a landlord can evict a tenant for multiple reasons. A lot of these factors rely on the lease terms stipulated in their written contract.
In some cases, the landlord must give the tenant a Notice to Cease before an official Notice to Quit. The number of days associated with the Notice to Quit will depend on the reason for eviction.
The Notice to Quit is a notice to the tenant that states how many days they have to vacate the property before being evicted by the court.
No matter the reason for eviction, the landlord cannot do a self-help eviction, which is an illegal form of eviction that is considered disorderly conduct on the part of the landlord.
The reason for eviction can range from nonpayment of rent to violation of the lease terms, both of which require a Notice to Cease, as well as the charge for disorderly conduct.
Below are the basic rules and regulations when it comes to evicting a tenant in New Jersey.
1. Nonpayment of Rent
In New Jersey, a landlord can evict the tenant for failing to pay the rent. Paying rent before being evicted usually stops the eviction process.
Rent is usually considered late a day past it is due. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
If the tenant habitually pays rent late, and the landlord accepts it, then the landlord must give a 30-Day Notice to Pay before starting the eviction process.
However, if the landlord does not have a history of accepting late rent, they are not required to give any notice.
Late fees may be charged by the landlord if 5 days have passed and rent still has not been paid. The landlord cannot overcharge on a late fee.
Landlord-tenant law states it must not go beyond 5% of the rent, and the charge of late fees has to be stipulated within the lease terms.
If the tenant wants to avoid eviction, they have to pay rent.
See: New Jersey Stat. Ann. § 2A:18-61.2 for more information
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of their stay. Lease/rental agreements may vary from tenant to tenant.
A tenant can be evicted for a lease violation. If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord must first issue a Notice to Cease. This informs the tenant that they have to resolve the violation.
Should the tenant fail to resolve the violation, then the landlord must present them with a 30-Day Notice to Quit.
Lease violations may include:
- Damage to the rental unit
- Smoking in non-smoking areas
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
If the tenant remains on the property by the end of the 30 days, then the landlord can continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
To evict a tenant who has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord must give the tenant an official written notice called a 3-Day Notice to Quit.
Examples of illegal activities include, but are not limited to:
- Human trafficking and/or prostitution
- Theft, violence, assault
- Possession and/or firing of an illegal firearm
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of a controlled substance
A complete list can be found at New Jersey Stat. Ann. § § 2A:18-53(c) and 2A:18-61.2(a).
A landlord must keep a close eye on their tenants to make sure illegal behavior does not go unnoticed.
4. Committing major property damage
In this case, tenants are usually not allowed to renew their lease. The landlords must give the tenant at least 3 days’ notice.
They have no choice. The tenant must leave the premises before the end of the notice period to avoid eviction.
Landlords may continue with the eviction process if the tenant refuses to leave after the 3 days’ notice.
5. Disorderly Conduct
Landlords reserve the right to evict a tenant who has shown disorderly conduct and has ruined the peace and quiet of the rental establishment.
This also applies if they disturb the peace and quiet of anyone within the rental property’s neighborhood.
If a tenant is accused of disorderly conduct, the landlord must first issue a Notice to Cease. This informs the tenant that they have to stop committing disorderly behavior.
Should the tenant fail to adhere to the Notice to Cease, then the landlord must present them with a 3-Day Notice to Quit.
If the tenant remains on the property by the end of the 3 days, then the landlord can continue with the eviction.
6. Material health or safety violation
New Jersey law takes into account the health, building, safety, and housing codes.
Should the rental property violate any of these codes and fails any health and safety inspections, the landlord is given the following options:
- If compliance with the codes is too expensive, the rental property must be demolished or boarded up.
- In the case that the landlord can afford the costs of correcting any code violations, tenants are removed from the rental property to allow for repairs.
- If the property belongs to the government, then it may be demolished. This is to comply with a blighted area redevelopment plan.
Should any of the options be used, the landlord must issue a 3-Month Notice to Quit to allow the tenant time to vacate the property.
If the tenant is unable to vacate the property within 3 months, then the landlord may continue filing for eviction.
7. Discontinued Use of the Rental Property
The landlord could decide to take the rental property out of the rental market. This means they no longer want to rent it out.
If so, they must issue an 18-Month Notice to Quit to the tenant before trying to evict them.
Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 18 months, then the landlord may continue to file for eviction.
8. Tenant does not accept lease changes
There are cases when the lease/rental agreement between the landlord and the tenant may change between lease/rental agreement renewals.
If the change in terms is reasonable and the tenant refuses to agree to them, then the landlord must provide the tenant with a 1-Month Notice to Quit.
Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 1 month, then the landlord may continue to file for eviction.
9. Rental property is to be converted to a condominium
Landlords who wish to convert the property into a set of condominiums, or something similar, have to provide a 3-Year Notice to Quit to the tenant.
Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 3 years from the date the notice was given, then the landlord may continue to file for eviction.
10. Rental property is to be sold or used for personal use
Sometimes, a buyer may take interest in the rental property, but not wish for it to be rented out. Or, the landlord changes their mind and decides they want to stay in the property instead.
For either case, the landlord must give the tenant a 2-Month Notice to Quit. Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 2 months, then the landlord may continue to file for eviction.
11. Tenant’s employment is terminated
Some employers may receive a rental unit or rental property from their employers as part of an employee package, or their employment contract.
If they end their employment or their employment is terminated, they also have to return or vacate the rental property.
In cases such as these, the landlord must give the tenant a 3-Day Notice to Quit. Should the tenant remain in the rental property after 3 days, then the landlord may continue to file for eviction.
12. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
New Jersey law states that landlords cannot evict a tenant or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if they stay in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and have not arranged for renewal, landlords can issue a written notice to the tenant to move. Some of the notices include a 7-Day Notice to Quit, a 30-Day Notice to Quit, or a 90-Day Notice to Quit.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
To file an eviction complaint, enough time must have passed from the issuance of the appropriate written eviction notice. Enough notice time must have been allowed before a landlord can try to evict a tenant.
The eviction process is as follows:
- The landlord must go to court. This justice court will depend on where the rental unit or property is located.
- A complaint must be filed bearing the correct information and details such as the tenant’s failure to pay rent. Some courts require the tenant’s history of rent payments.
- Pay the fees. This will vary from court to court.
It takes about 3 days to 3 years from the issuance of the Notice to Pay/Quit to begin filing to evict a tenant. This depends on the reason for eviction.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
An official from the court delivers the court order—also known as the Summons and Complaint. This official is usually a Special Civil Part Officer. Otherwise, the court may decide to appoint a process server.
There are several methods available for the appointed Special Civil Part Officer or process server to deliver the documents:
- Personal Service: The court official delivers the Summons and Complaint to the tenant in person.
- Substituted Service: If the tenant is unavailable, a copy of the documents may be left with anyone living with the tenant above the age of 14.
- Posting: A copy of the documents is posted outside the rental property. It is placed in a secure and visible position by the entrance of the tenant’s rented property.
- If none of these methods are possible, the court official turns to the following method:
- Mailing: The court official mails the documents via certified mail AND regular mail.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
A court date is scheduled 10 to 30 days after the court issues the Summons and Complaint.
There is no specific timeframe for tenants to be served the documents from the court. It may take days or weeks, depending on the court official’s chosen service method.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgment and get a Judgment for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. Should the tenant fail to show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default.
However, if the tenant manages to pay all rent due within 3 business days of the judgment for possession is passed, the entire eviction process is discontinued.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of New Jersey, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. They only have to show up to the hearing.
Both landlord and tenant must go to court. The landlord needs to support their claim with evidence and show it during the court hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
Alternatively, a landlord may also opt to obtain legal advice and counsel from a licensed attorney to help with their case in court.
If the judge rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant has 3 business days to pay the total amount of rent owed.
Eviction hearings are scheduled 10 to 30 days after the landlord files for eviction.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration or does not pay the entire rent due within 3 business days judgment for possession being passed, a Warrant for Removal is issued 3 days after the judgment is passed in favor of the landlord.
The Warrant for Removal gives the tenant a maximum of 3 days to vacate the property.
2. Move out process
Once the Warrant for Removal is issued, the tenant has to move out within 3 days or pay all owed rent in full.
Even though the landlord has gone through the entire eviction process, once a tenant amends their failure to pay rent, the tenant can continue staying in the property.
However, the court can decide to grant a stay of execution—officially known as an orderly removal—to the tenant. This gives the tenant an additional 7 days to 6 months to vacate the property.
An orderly removal can only be issued for good cause.
Only the appropriate authorities are allowed to evict the tenant by force. Even if the landlord wins the case, they are not allowed to engage in illegal methods of eviction.
The state of New Jersey requires landlords to store any property left behind by the tenant for 33 days at the tenant’s expense.
The landlord must contact the tenant via certified mail or first-class mail and notify them that they have 33 days to reclaim their property.
If they fail to reclaim the property within that timeframe, the landlord can get rid of it however they see fit within state laws. They may either dispose of the property or sell it.
Tenants have 3 days to vacate the property before they will forcefully be removed.
In cases of nonpayment of rent, the tenant is not evicted if they pay all owed rent in full.
In cases where a stay of execution or an orderly removal was issued, their move-out period may be extended for 7 days to 6 months.
Any possessions left behind will only be stored for a minimum of 33 days.
New Jersey Eviction Process Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process:
You are not allowed to be the one to evict the tenant by force. Leave that job to the authorized officials.
On average, it would take anywhere between 3 weeks to 4 years for a complete eviction process. This estimate includes the long eviction notices involving rental property conversions and orderly removals.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s important that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This can get VERY difficult to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - To make documents easily accessible, scan them onto your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other option that is easily searchable.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing all of the terms of the agreement, including when rent is due and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were normally made (check, credit card, ACH, etc…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also show any fees your bank may have charged you, and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, a letter, or mail, it’s important to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in physical writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you didn’t catch them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation, which could be very beneficial in the court case.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, a picture could be worth a lot of money! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice though, start adding all potential violations to future agreements.
1. What is a self-help eviction?
Examples of illegal “self-help” evictions include changing the locks, taking the tenant’s belongings, removing the front door, or turning off the heat or electricity. Many states specify how much money a tenant can sue for if the landlord has tried to illegally evict the tenant through some sort of self-help measure. Some states have laws that protect the tenant in this case by covering their attorney and court fees as well as allowing them to stay on the property.
2. Can I force a tenant to move out in New Jersey?
In almost every state in the US, a landlord must never try to force a tenant to move out of the rental unit. The tenant can only be removed from a rental unit after the landlord has successfully won an eviction lawsuit. Even then, the only person authorized to remove the tenant is a sheriff or constable, or any other authorized individual. New Jersey law has made it illegal for a landlord to personally remove the tenant from the rental unit.
3. What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to New Jersey Civil Code, you may be liable for the Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also grants the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
Can I force a tenant to move out in New Jersey?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes. Legal court proceedings are required.
In the state of New Jersey, tenants may sue their landlord for the following amounts:
- Actual damages or $1,000
- Whichever is greater. If the landlord is found to have knowingly broken the law, this amount could be multiplied twice or thrice
- The amount may also depend on the situation
As another consequence of forceful eviction, the statute allows tenants to stay on the property and will pay for their court costs and legal fees. The welfare office will provide more details on the matter.
Which eviction methods are considered illegal?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the potential penalties for a self-help eviction?
According to New Jersey Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay.
A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
Can a landlord enter without permission in New Jersey?
No. A landlord must provide the appropriate notices before they can enter a property that is currently being occupied by a tenant.
What other laws should I be aware of?
The landlord should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of New Jersey. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There may be eviction bans and rent plus information on CDC moratorium on evictions.
It is also wise for a landlord to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay rent.
New Jersey legal assistance can be contacted for more information.
- Actions for Unlawful Entry or Detainer N.J.S.A. 2A:39-1 through 2A:39-8
- eForms: New Jersey Eviction Notice Forms
- Landlord Identity Law N.J.S.A. 46:8-27 through 46:8-37
- N.J.S.A. Criminal Law 2C Statute Codes
- National Apartment Association: COVID-19 Information for New Jersey
- New Jersey Eviction Law N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 through 21:18-84
- NOLO: Consequences of Illegal Evictions
- NOLO: New Jersey Late Fees, Termination for Nonpayment of Rent, and Other Rent Rules
- NOLO: New Jersey Security Deposit Limits and Deadlines
- NOLO: The Eviction Process in New Jersey: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers
- State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs: Housing Discrimination