A client, a residential landlord, is in a financial pickle as with many NJ landlords. The client bought a condo at an auction and closed on the condo in January. The seller’s sister (“tenant”) had been living in that condo and would not vacate the condo or pay market value rent claiming she would move out once she closed on a property she purchased around mid-April.
A complaint for eviction was filed and the “tenant” agreed to move out by end of February. The court date was at the end of February. As we know, all this changed with the Covid-19 pandemic and Gov. Murphy’s stay order on all eviction matters. Since then, the tenant made no attempts to pay rent nor made efforts to move out of the condo.
So what is the strategy to remove the holdover tenant?
Under 2A:42-5. Holding over by tenant after giving notice of quitting; double rent recoverable
If a tenant gives notice of their intention to quit the property and fails to deliver possession, the landlord is entitled to double the stated rent every day until the tenant leaves the property.
2A:42-6. Willful holding over by tenant after expiration of term; notice to deliver possession; penalty
When a tenant willfully stays in the property after receiving written notice to deliver possession after the end of the lease term, the landlord is entitled to double the rent.
Will the court allow the enforcement of the above provisions or any other remedies?
The client faces a number of problems. First, under Executive Order 106, no evictions are taking place. I don’t see the client getting around that though the Executive Order provides that there are no evictions “unless the court determines on its own motion or motion of the parties that enforcement is necessary in the interest of justice.” I doubt that you’d get such an order (or a court officer or sheriff to enforce it).
The next problem is that the Landlord-Tenant Part cannot award a money judgment. The only remedy Landlord-Tenant court can provide is possession of the premises which probably won’t happen any time soon. “[W]hile such a court ‘may hear equitable defenses and entertain equitable concepts, it is beyond the power of that court to grant . . . equitable relief . . . as may appear just and appropriate under the circumstances presented.'”
The best financial remedy is to sue the person in Law Division or the Special Civil Court for damages, but that doesn’t get her out of the property in the meantime.
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By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Landlord Tenant Attorney