New Jersey Landlord Tenant Law – Recent Changes to Eviction Statute

For nearly 50 years, most of New Jersey’s residential tenants have been protected by the vast set of Statutes, known simply as The Anti-Eviction Act (“The Act”).   Throughout the years the Act has undergone various, but generally minor, revisions.  However, amidst these changes, eviction complaints based on non-payment of rent have remained relatively straightforward.  Most landlords are aware of the following two rules with regard to nonpayment of rent cases:

  1. If the tenant pays the rent that is due by the day of the eviction hearing, the eviction action must be dismissed.
  2. If the tenant does not pay the rent that is due by the day of the eviction hearing, the landlord shall be awarded a Judgment for Possession, and may file the appropriate application to schedule a lockout of the tenant.

These rules, which are set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:18-55, originally only applied to matters involving tenants that were not protected by New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act (i.e.; it did not apply to residential tenants).  But under the matter of City of Wildwood v Hayward, 81 NJ 311, 316 (1979), this statute became applicable to all Landlord Tenant actions, including the more common case involving the residential tenant.  (See also N.J.S.A. 2A:42-9)

N.J.S.A. 2A:18-57 further clarifies that even in cases where a Judgment for Possession is issued, the Court will not process a request for a Warrant of Removal until the expiration of 3-business days from the date upon which the Judgment for Possession was issued.  As a practical matter, this statute meant that the landlord could refuse rent after the day the Judgment for Possession was entered, even if the Court would have still needed to wait three additional business days before processing the Warrant of Removal.

However, Governor Murphy, recently signed a new Statute, currently known as Senate Bill S-3124.  Under the new Statute, the tenant can avoid eviction by paying the rent that is due, up to three business days after the lockout has occurred.  The new Statute further states the following:

  1. A payment made to the Landlord within the 3-day grace period must be accepted.
  2. Upon receipt and acceptance of the payment, the Landlord must notify the Court (within 2 business days of the payment) that the payment has been accepted, and that the matter is dismissed with prejudice.
  3. A violation of this Statute shall result in a monetary penalty to the landlord in the amount of $500.

Based on this new Statute, landlords should be extremely careful of the fact that a payment made after the day of Court can no longer be refused, if the payment was made within 3 business days of the lockout date.   The Statute also includes a provision regarding limitations on landlords’ attorneys’ fees in cases where the rental unit is limited by rent control. However, the rent control rule will not apply to the majority of our clients, since there are currently only about 100 municipalities in New Jersey that are subject to rent control.  Finally, it appears based on the wording of the final sentence of the Statute that it does not actually take effect until March 1.  However, we have already received declarations from the presiding Special Civil Part Judges in two counties that they will start enforcing the new rules immediately.

Should you have any questions regarding these new regulations, please feel free to contact our office.