Evicting a Tenant for Damage Under the Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18.61.1(c): Proving the "Mental State."

May 27, 2016,

The Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(c) allows a New Jersey landlord to evict a tenant for "destruction, damage or injury to the [rental] premises" (Section 61.1(c)). Section 61.1(c) requires that a landlord prove two elements. The first can be described as the "mental state" of the tenant. The second is resultant harm from that mental state. The full text of Section 61.1(c) shows this. An eviction under Section 61.1(c) is permissible when: "The [tenant] has willfully or by reason of gross negligence caused or allowed destruction, damage or injury to the premises." The threshold inquiry is how the damage occurred, whether it occurred willfully or by gross negligence. Proving this element at trial is a difficult task.

Continue reading "Evicting a Tenant for Damage Under the Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18.61.1(c): Proving the "Mental State."" »

The Cost of Waiting: Applying the Laches Defense to a New Jersey Nonpayment of Rent Case

May 2, 2016,

A question often posed by New Jersey landlord is: "When should I file a nonpayment of rent case? After how many months?" Answering this question requires balancing the propriety of litigation relative to the amounts involved. Unscrupulous landlords may be tempted to "sit" on the rent for many months, allowing the tenant to accrue a balance that the tenant has no realistic chance of paying. In a case like this, the landlord relies on the tenant's poor money management skills and hopes that the tenant cannot pay the all of the rent due on the court date. But, landlord-tenant law is too sophisticated for this game; the affirmative defense of "laches" may defeat the landlord's claim.

Continue reading "The Cost of Waiting: Applying the Laches Defense to a New Jersey Nonpayment of Rent Case" »

Be Careful What You Settle For: The Enforceability of Landlord-Tenant Settlements in Light of NJSA 2A:18-61.2

March 16, 2016,

A New Jersey residential eviction action can only begin because the Landlord has "good cause" under the Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1. Often, when a landlord pursues a tenant's eviction there are many problems with the tenancy. For example, the tenant may fail to pay late fees and also pay habitually late. A tenant may disturb the peace and quiet of the other tenants and also refuse to sign a written lease. When the case finally comes to court, it is natural to try to resolve all outstanding issues. A recent appellate division opinion cautions: Be careful what you settle for, it may not be enforceable.

Continue reading "Be Careful What You Settle For: The Enforceability of Landlord-Tenant Settlements in Light of NJSA 2A:18-61.2" »

Evicting a NJ Residential Tenant for Causing Damage: Proving the Cause

February 1, 2016,

The NJ Anti-Eviction Act provides the least amount of protection for a tenant causing damage to the landlord's property. For most grounds for eviction (habitual late payment, violation of lease rules, increase in rent, etc.) the Anti-Eviction Act requires either a Notice to Cease and/or a one month Notice to Quit prior to filing the Complaint. In a damage case, the tenant is entitled to only three days of notice before the landlord files the Complaint. The short time frame is counterbalanced by the landlord's burden. In an eviction for damage case, the landlord must prove both the cause and effect. Without both, the landlord's case will fail.

Continue reading "Evicting a NJ Residential Tenant for Causing Damage: Proving the Cause" »

NJ Commercial Tenancies: The Form Lease & Compliance with "All Laws"

November 11, 2015,

Many form leases (from sites like LegalZoom or RocketLawyer) contain stock terms designed to apply to most landlord-tenant relationships. Unfortunately, New Jersey landlord-tenant law and the facts of a commercial landlord-tenant relationship rarely lend themselves to "canned" contract terms. One overly (and rarely correctly) used contract term requires the tenant to comply with "all laws." The sentence: "The tenant shall comply with all laws" begs the question: When has the tenant failed to comply with all laws? In a recent case, the Firm successfully defended a commercial tenant from a landlord's aggressive interpretation of the "comply with all laws" requirement.

Continue reading "NJ Commercial Tenancies: The Form Lease & Compliance with "All Laws"" »

A Tenancy Without a Written Lease: Who Lives in My Building? The Problem with Assignment & Subletting

October 1, 2015,

Oral residential tenancies in New Jersey are an invitation to chaos. A prior post explained the basic terms of an oral tenancy. Those terms are the amount of the rent and the size of the space. Equally important is the identity of the tenant and the landlord's right to know who occupies its property. Often, a landlord will purchase a multi-family building and find unauthorized occupants in apartments presumably rented to a named tenant. Without a written lease defining the tenants, the question is: Who is the tenant in the apartment and what rights (if any) do they have?

Continue reading "A Tenancy Without a Written Lease: Who Lives in My Building? The Problem with Assignment & Subletting" »

A Tenancy Without a Written Lease: What Does a Tenant Possess and How Much Does He/She Pay?

August 14, 2015,

New Jersey residential tenancies exist in two forms. Those with a written lease and those without. Written leases are more desirable for the simple (and obvious reason) that the terms of the tenancy are defined. Oral tenancies generally lack defined terms (unless implied from conduct). This vagueness is problematic. Whether a landlord purchases a building with an existing oral tenancy or creates one, the problems remain the same. The central question is: How does one define the terms of an oral tenancy?

Continue reading "A Tenancy Without a Written Lease: What Does a Tenant Possess and How Much Does He/She Pay? " »

NJ Housing Code Enforcement & Landlord's Responsibility for Maintenance vs. Repair

June 29, 2015,

Municipal housing code citations can be a nightmare for NJ landlords. A prior post explained how some tenants intentionally or neglectfully damage their apartment and sic the city on the landlord. These housing code citations can be used by the tenant to form the basis of habitability or "Marini" withholding. Even worse, housing code citations carry onerous municipal fines. In light of the dual damage of landlord-tenant habitability withholding and municipal fines, NJ landlords should be aware of the technical requirements of the International Property Maintenance Code ("IMPC"). Housing code violations should be appealed when the notice requirements are not strictly followed by the city. Most importantly, the Notice should identify which party is responsible for "repair" vs. "maintenance."

Continue reading "NJ Housing Code Enforcement & Landlord's Responsibility for Maintenance vs. Repair" »

NJ Housing Code Enforcement & the IPMC Notice of Violation to the "Person Responsible"

June 28, 2015,

New Jersey landlords face a complicated regulatory jungle. In addition to the stringent requirements of the Anti-Eviction Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:81-61.1 et. seq.), Landlords must also comply with the NJ Department of Community Affairs and local housing code enforcement. In Northern New Jersey, many cities (Jersey City, West New York etc.) adopted the International Property Maintenance Code and rely on housing/building code departments to enforce it. Like most laws, the International Property Maintenance Code (the "IPMC") was designed with the best intentions. In practice, the IPMC can be abused by tenants trying to create a reason to withhold rent. Professional landlords should have a familiarity with the IPMC to avoid being dragged into a municipal quagmire by a tenant.

Continue reading "NJ Housing Code Enforcement & the IPMC Notice of Violation to the "Person Responsible"" »

2014, the Year that Was: NJ Commercial Tenant Finally "Gets with the Program"

January 9, 2015,

A NJ commercial landlord-tenant relationship can be challenging to manage. A commercial landlord must balance the benefit of having a rent paying tenant in a space that can be difficult to rent with the realities of the tenant's behavior. In 2014, the Firm confronted this scenario: Pursue an eviction matter far enough to convince a commercial tenant to change his behavior while preserving the landlord-tenant relationship and rent payments to the Landlord.

Continue reading "2014, the Year that Was: NJ Commercial Tenant Finally "Gets with the Program"" »

2014, the Year that Was: NJ Eviction of a Subetter Claiming to be a Co-Tenant

January 2, 2015,

A residential landlord client received financing for his building from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. In exchange for this financing, Landlord had to maintain a certain amount of low-income units in the building. This financing agreement serves the noble purpose of diversifying buildings, neighborhoods and cities. It has the added virtue of being successful. Unfortunately, it is subject to abuse. In this case, the tenant on the lease did not live in her low income unit. Instead, she lived far out of state and sublet her unit to the highest bidder. This conduct violated her lease, the landlord's rules and terms of the financing agreement. The Firm represented the Landlord in a case to evict the subletter.

Continue reading "2014, the Year that Was: NJ Eviction of a Subetter Claiming to be a Co-Tenant" »

2014, the Year that Was: A 5 Part Review of Successful NJ Landlord-Tenant Cases

January 2, 2015,

2014 was a busy year for the Firm on the landlord side of the ledger. Some particularly notable NJ landlord-tenant cases include (1) a successful eviction in connection with a tenant's refusal to cooperate with the Landlord's lease (required by the NJ Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency); (2) A chronically difficult commercial tenant's total acquiescence to the Landlord's demands minutes before trial; (3) A successful defense of a tenant's illegal apartment claim against a landlord; (4) An eviction of a horrid with horrific behavior for damage to the apartment and (5) a trial judgment in favor of the landlord increasing a tenant's rent (the tenant refused to pay rent increases for years). Each case, discussed in a separate post, is an example of the Firm's commitment to delivering cost-effective results to Landlord's trying to get the most out of their investment.

Finder's Fees, Pet Fees and Damage Fees: A Landlord's 'Right' to Collect Fees as Rent

December 29, 2014,

Many New Jersey landlords require that tenants pay extra money for certain "extra" rights. For example, a landlord may require a pet fee in exchange for the right to keep a pet on the property. Some landlords charge tenants "finder's fees" for the right to rent an apartment (even though no real estate brokers are involved). Tenants often bristle at paying these extra fees, especially when a lease is renewed. This raises the question: Can a tenant be evicted for failure to pay additional fees?

Continue reading "Finder's Fees, Pet Fees and Damage Fees: A Landlord's 'Right' to Collect Fees as Rent" »

NJ Eviction for Late Payments: There's More to "Habitual" Than Meets the Eye

November 5, 2014,

Late payment of rent is one of the more common landlord complaints. Late-paying tenants interfere with their landlord's bottom line and create an atmosphere of disrespect toward the landlord's investment. The NJ Anti-Eviction Act allows a Landlord to evict a tenant for "habitual late payment of rent" when the tenant "after written notice to cease, has habitually and without legal justification failed to pay rent which is due and owing." N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(j). Although the law seems clear, it's easy to say a tenant pays rent habitually late; evicting for late payments is more difficult proposition.

Continue reading "NJ Eviction for Late Payments: There's More to "Habitual" Than Meets the Eye" »

Landlord-Tenant Settlements: Is Everything on the Table?

October 18, 2014,

All New Jersey landlord-tenant cases have a mediation requirement. This means that the Landlord and the Tenant must, at least, try to resolve their dispute before the case goes before a judge. Mediation is a great opportunity to reach an agreement that works for both Parties and avoids the harshness of a judge calling a winner and a loser. In general, there are three types of landlord-tenant settlements.

Continue reading "Landlord-Tenant Settlements: Is Everything on the Table?" »