EVICTION ISSUES — NOTICES
As discussed in the last post to this series, to answer that question we must first determine which eviction statute applies and whether the circumstances at hand qualify as grounds for eviction under that statute. Once we know if there is a statutory basis for removal, we then have to determine if the tenant was entitled to any notice under the applicable statute before filing for replacement, if notice was required it sent in a proper and timely manner and if the tenant has any viable defences to deportation. In today’s post, we’ll pick up with the various notice requirements before a landlord can file for eviction.
As discussed earlier, in New Jersey there are two statutes under which a landlord can file to evict a tenant. To figure out which law is applicable and, by extension, which notice requirements apply, we first have to determine where the owner of the property lives and the number of units available for rent.
Generally, the Summary Dispossess Act (“SDA”), N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53, et seq., applies to commercial tenancies, hotels/motels/guest houses renting to a transient guest or seasonal tenant and residential rentals where the owner lives on the property, and there are 2 or fewer units available for rent (think duplex or triplex with the owner living in a group or an owner-occupied house with the garage lawfully converted to 1-2 rental units).
The Anti-Eviction Act (AEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, et seq., applies to all other residential tenancies in New Jersey. It covers single-family homes to 500-unit apartment complexes and everything in between. It is fair to say that the AEA covers over 90% of the residential tenancies in New Jersey.
There are generally three different types of notice, but not all apply to each of the grounds for eviction:
A Notice to Cease is a warning to the tenant to change his/her evil ways and fly straight. It is required only under specific grounds for eviction found in the Anti-Eviction Act. The AEA does not specify how a Notice to Cease should be served but, as a general rule, I recommend service of all notices personally or by certified/RRR and regular mail.
A Notice to Quit informs the tenant that the tenancy will be terminated under the eviction grounds at issue and, practically speaking, is required under all grounds for eviction except non-payment of rent. Under the SDA, a Notice to Quit technically must be served personally upon the tenant or a family member above the age of 14; in other words, service by mail is technically not an option. However, sending the Notice by certified mail might suffice if signed for by the tenant or a family member older than 14. Under the AEA, service of Notice to Quit may be done personally or by certified/regular mail.
A Demand for Possession is the final type of notice required and must provide the actual date by which the tenant must return possession of the unit to the landlord. Like the Notice to Quit, as a practical matter, a Demand for Possession should be served in all cases except non-payment of rent. For purposes of service, a Demand for Possession is often combined with the Notice to Quit but, make no mistake; they are not the same. If you plan to connect a Notice to Quit and a Demand for Possession into one notice, you best make sure the requirements of both are satisfied.
As a general rule, all notices to tenants should be in writing and provide sufficient detail, primarily as to the offending behaviour and grounds for eviction. Most statutory provisions require it, and it is just smart business in any event. The court prefers things in writing and the more detail, the better.
The type and timing of the required notice to the tenant will depend on the particular grounds for eviction being prosecuted. Here is a summary of the notice requirements under the Summary Dispossess Act (“SDA”), N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53, et seq.:
Here is a review of the notice requirements under the Anti-Eviction Act (AEA), N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, et seq.: (Sorry if this Table is blurry, as this is my first time working w/ images of this size in a post. Please contact my office if you would like a more explicit copy.)
Why is the issue of “notice” important: because failure to comply with the applicable notice requirements will deprive the court of jurisdiction. In other words, failure to provide timely/adequate notice to the tenant will likely result in dismissal of the eviction suit.