In last month’s article, we discussed applications filed by tenants to have Judgments for Possession set aside. This month, we will discuss one other type of post-judgment applications that tenants may make in order to delay their lockouts. Specifically, in this article, we will discuss Hardship Stays.
On the day of Landlord Tenant Court, some cases are settled, and some cases result in the immediate entry of a Judgment for Possession, very often due to the non-appearance of the tenant. Following the entry of a Judgment for Possession, whether it is by way of a default, or a breach of a settlement agreement, the landlord may order a Warrant of Removal. Sometimes, following the Judgment for Possession, the tenant will attempt to pay the Landlord the rent that is due. However, after the Court date (or after the date that a settlement agreement is breached), the Landlord is under no obligation to accept the rent. The Landlord has the right to proceed with a Warrant of Removal and a lockout. When this occurs, if the tenant has the rent that is due and owing, the tenant may post that rent with the Court, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.1 or N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.6 and request a Hardship Stay. In cases where the past due rent is posted with the Court and a Hardship Stay is deemed appropriate, the Judge will issue an order delaying the lockout and compelling the parties to appear in Court for a “return date,” during which the parties can argue about the duration of the Hardship Stay.
The Hardship Stay can last for a maximum duration of six months. However, the Court will not necessarily grant a full 6-month Hardship Stay all at once. In most instances, the Court will grant a Hardship Stay for a shorter period of time and afford the tenant the opportunity to come back to Court at a later date if additional time is needed for the tenant to find alternate housing. In all Hardship Stay matters, the tenant must continue to stay current with rent throughout the entire duration of the Hardship Stay. In the event the tenant fails to pay rent during any month of the Hardship Stay, the Landlord may request that the Hardship Stay be immediately set aside and that the Warrant of Removal be executed.
Putting aside the obligation to stay current with rent, tenants applying for Hardship Stays are often unaware of the requirement that they initially post all rent that is due before the application can even be granted. For this reason, most Hardship Stay applications are summarily dismissed by the Court, once it is determined that the tenant does not have the past due rent to post with the Court. In cases where the Hardship Stay application is dismissed due to non-payment of the rent that is due, the Court may convert the tenant’s request to an application for Orderly Removal. In next month’s article, we will discuss Orderly Removal applications.
Finally, Landlords should also be forewarned that a post-judgment application might also occur after the lockout date. In fact, the tenant may apply for a Hardship Stay up to ten days after the date of lockout! Sometimes landlords do not find out about this rule until they go through the effort of changing the locks and renovating the apartment. In some rare instances, the landlord actually manages to re-rent the apartment (or at least sign a lease to re-rent the apartment) before being told by the Court that the tenant has been awarded a Hardship Stay. In those rare instances, the Court will force the landlord to allow the tenant back into the premises. Therefore, it is always advisable for a landlord to wait ten full days after the lockout before making any plans to re-rent the apartment.
For assistance with more inquiries regarding Landlord Tenant law, scheduling of lockouts, or post-judgment applications, please feel free to contact our office.