When Do Warrants of Removal Expire?

Keys.jpgFor the last 12 years, our firm has been writing articles about the eviction process. We have discussed pre-suit notices, habitability hearings, security deposit defenses, and a variety of other topics, focused on the eviction process. However, we have never provided any articles regarding Warrants of Removal. The Warrant of Removal is generally the last stage in the eviction process. While post-judgment applications sometimes add an extra step to the process, it is important for landlords to have a full and complete understanding of the Warrant of Removal process, in order to minimize the risk of unnecessarily delaying the lockout of a tenant of even causing the involuntary dismissal of an eviction.

Following nearly all eviction matters that are based on nonpayment of rent, we will leave the Courthouse with either a settlement that the landlord has agreed upon, or a default against the tenant. The defaults can be the result of a tenant not showing up to court to contest the eviction, or in some cases, they can be the result of the tenant showing up, but without the enough funds to persuade the landlord to enter into a settlement agreement. Since the Court cannot make the landlord wait for rents or force the landlord to accept the rent in installments, the Court will change the marking for these cases from “Ready” to “Voluntary Default,” or “Judgment by Consent.”

Whether the Default is the result of the tenant not showing up, or the result of the tenant showing up with no money, a Judgment for Possession will enter. Barring the very unlikely possibility that of the tenant posting the full amount due with the Court later on the day set for the hearing, the Landlord should immediately apply for a Warrant of Removal.

According to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-57, the Warrant of Removal cannot be issue sooner than the third business day after the entry of a Judgment for Possession. Nearly every vicinage of the New Jersey Superior Court system seems to have different interpretation of that Statute. We have argued that the proper reading of the Statute suggests that, so long as the Landlord’s attorney submitted the Certifications (XI-T and XI-U) on the day of the hearing, the Court should be ready to issue the Warrant of Removal as early as 3 business days later, regardless of whether the landlord waited a day or two to actually file the Warrant. However, some Courts will not process the Warrant until at least 3 business days after they receive it. In either case, the Landlord’s deadline to order the Warrant expires 30 days after the hearing date. This is a strict deadline, and there are no exceptions to this rule. In cases where the Warrant is being ordered because the tenant breached a settlement agreement, the Warrant must be ordered within 30 days of the alleged breach of the settlement. In most cases, the breach will involve either a missed installment or a missed monthly rent payment during the time period of the settlement.

The Execution of the Warrant of Removal (i.e.; the lockout) of the tenant follows an almost identical timetable as the service of the Warrant. After a Warrant of Removal is served, the Court Officer must wait an additional 3 business days before executing the Warrant. The Landlord shall have 30 days with which to have the Warrant executed. However, in the case of the execution of the Warrant, it is much easier to miss a deadline. Landlords are often unaware of when their Warrants are served, and then they sometimes do not know which Court Officer served the Warrant. Therefore, the time period during which the Landlord can execute the Warrant of Removal sometimes is sometimes expired without the landlord even realizing how much time was lost. Electronic Court records are available online through the New Jersey Judiciary website and can be very helpful in assisting landlords to find out when their Warrants were served and who the Court Officers are. For more information on this subject, please contact our office.