Recently, a trial judge determined that an evicted tenant was obligated to pay to plaintiff, the landlord, $2,509.79 for the costs incurred to remove defendant’s personal property from and to clean the leased apartment. The Appellate Court said, not so fast.
Here’s why. The Abandoned Tenant Property Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-72 to -84 (Act), governs disposal of property left by a tenant on a landlord’s property. A landlord must comply with the enumerated requirements in the Act before disposing of a tenant’s property. One of those requirements is that the landlord adheres to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-72, which provides, in pertinent part:
A landlord of commercial… property, in the manner provided by [the Act], may dispose of any tangible goods, chattels,… or other personal property left upon a premises by a tenant after giving notice as required by [N.J.S.A. 2A:18-73], only if the landlord reasonably believes under all the circumstances that the tenant has left the property upon the premises with no intention of asserting any further claim to the premises or the property, and:
a. A warrant for removal has been executed and possession of the premises has been restored to the landlord; or
b. The tenant has given written notice that he or she is voluntarily relinquishing possession of the premises.
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-73 states in relevant part:
To dispose of a tenant’s property under this act, a landlord shall first give written notice to the tenant, which shall be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or by receipted first class mail addressed to the tenant, at the tenant’s last known address (which may be the address of the premises) and at any alternate address or addresses known to the landlord, in an envelope endorsed “Please Forward”.
“Receipted first class mail” for purposes of this section means first class mail for which a certificate of mailing has been obtained by the sender but does not include certified or registered mail.
Here, the Landlord failed to provide notice to defendant in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:18-73. Therefore, plaintiff was not at liberty to dispose of defendant’s property. In addition, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-82 provides that if a landlord seizes and retains a tenant’s personal property without complying with the Act, the tenant shall be relieved of any liability to reimburse the landlord for the cost of removing its property because landlord did not comply with this Act and defendant is not obligated to reimburse plaintiff for the cost of removing its property from the leased premises.
To discuss your NJ Landlord Tenant matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq., of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County NJ Landlord Tenant Attorney