New Jersey's tenancy laws are much more favorable to tenants that in many states. The state's system specifically allows tenants the opportunity to go to court to request that eviction proceedings are frozen in particular circumstances, even when the landlord has already won the case. Although this can be frustrating, landlords must respect and comply with the process or risk committing a criminal offense.
New Jersey requires landlords seeking eviction to issue notice first. The precise details vary, but generally non-payment of rent requires notice to quit, but with no mandatory notice period, while evictions following a serious legal offense require three-days' notice. For other violations of the lease agreement, the landlord must first issue a notice to cease the violation. Only if the tenant either continues or repeats the violation can the landlord then give three days notice to quit.
Once the relevant notices have been served and notice period expired, the landlord must file a complaint in the Special Civil Part of the Superior Court that has jurisdiction over the location of the property. This leads to a summons for the tenant to attend a hearing which, if ruling in favor of the landlord, will issue a judgment for possession. This gives the tenant a certain amount of time to leave before the landlord can request a warrant of removal. This gives a further period for the tenant to leave, after which the court constable can forcibly evict the tenant.
Compared with other states, New Jersey gives tenants more opportunity to halt the eviction process even after a court issues a judgment for possession. There are four main reasons, with related procedures, why a court might halt the eviction:
An order for orderly removal allows the tenant up to seven extra days to move out voluntarily. This applies in situations where the tenant intends to leave but needs more time to arrange a move.
A hardship stay is where the court allows the tenant to remain for up to six months if he shows he cannot find another affordable place to rent. This requires the tenant to pay all outstanding rent and to pay rent during the additional time he is in the property, so this is rarely used in unpaid rent cases.
A terminally ill patient who does not owe any rent and has been in the property for at least two years may be granted permission to stay in the property for another year if she can show that moving to another property could cause medical harm.
A tenant who did not get the original summons, or has new evidence that would change the outcome of the hearing, can apply for the judgment to be vacated if the eviction would leave him homeless.
A landlord has the right to make an argument in court against a tenant's application for a stay of eviction. In particular, a court may take into account whether granting a stay could cause the landlord undue hardship.
However, a landlord must honor the rulings of the court at all times and not attempt to force an eviction herself. Doing so has been considered disorderly conduct since 2006, which constitutes a criminal offense.