A tenant is required to make rent payments in accordance with his lease agreement. Section 2A:18-61.1 of the New Jersey Statutes permits a landlord to begin eviction proceedings when his tenant fails to pay rent. However, he cannot simply lock the tenant out. He must follow the state's procedure for eviction or he will lose his right to that remedy.
Before a landlord can bring an eviction action in a New Jersey court, he must provide notice to the tenant. This means that upon late payment or non-payment, the landlord must present the tenant with a notice to quit. The tenant has 30 days from receipt of the notice to pay past-due rent in full.
Eviction proceedings are handled in the Landlord/Tenant Section of the Special Civil Part of New Jersey's Superior Court. The landlord must file a tenancy summons dispossess eviction complaint with the Clerk of the Special Civil Part and pay a filing fee, which for an eviction proceeding is $25 for the first tenant defendant and $2 for each additional tenant defendant. Once filed, the clerk will issue the date and time of the hearing and include it on the summons and complaint. A court constable must personally serve the tenant with the summons and complaint.
The tenant must appear at the hearing, at which time he can present any evidence proving that rent was paid, including receipts and canceled checks. If the tenant has withheld rent because a landlord has failed to make requested repairs, the tenant must show proof that repairs are necessary. He must also bring a certified check or money order made out to the court clerk in the full amount of rent owed in order to establish a willingness and ability to pay. The court may order the landlord to make repairs and transfer the unpaid rent to the landlord after he shows proof of the completed repairs. If the tenant has no reason for non-payment, the court has two options. If the tenant pays the rent in full by certified check, money order or cash, the landlord is required to accept payment and the case is dismissed. When a tenant fails to appear for the hearing or does not pay all rent owed, the court will issue a judgment of possession to the landlord.
Judgment of Possession
When a judgment is issued for the landlord, he must have a warrant for possession served on the tenant. He must pay a $15 fee plus mileage costs for the court constable. The warrant cannot be served on the tenant any sooner than three business days after the hearing. Upon service, the tenant has three business days to vacate the premises. If he does not leave with all of his possessions, a court officer can lock him out, though he must be given an opportunity to claim his possessions.