Property Management Blog

Two Parts to Every Eviction: Obtaining a Judgment for Possession and Monetary Damages

System - Thursday, October 4, 2012
In filing for eviction in the New Jersey Superior Court, Landlord-Tenant Part, a landlord must remember the relief that he or she is seeking is a judgment for possession of the leased property. To acquire a monetary judgment the landlord must file a separate action.  The Landlord-Tenant Part is not able to award the landlord a money judgment.
Instead, the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division maintains jurisdiction over actions for monetary damage. If the landlord is seeking money damages for an amount greater than $3,000.00 but equal to or less than $15,000.00, the claim is generally filed the in the Law Division, Special Civil Part. If the amount in controversy is greater than $15,000.00, the claim must be filed in the Law Division. If a landlord is seeking less than $3,000.00, the claim is generally filed in the Small Claims Section of the New Jersey Superior Court. In addition, the process necessary to recover unpaid rent is lengthier. First, a defendant must be successfully served with the complaint. In an action for a judgment of possession this  a fairly easy step because the tenant resides in the landlord’s unit. However, service is not so effortless when looking to pursue a monetary judgment. The explanation for this is that a landlord is typically unaware of his/her tenant’s residence post-eviction. If the landlord, after exercising diligent effort, is unable to ascertain the former tenant’s whereabouts, the landlord may petition the court for a form of substituted service. Further, landlord-tenant matters are considered “summary actions” and are generally decided in one hearing. After a judgment for possession is entered, the landlord will have to apply to the court for the issuance of a “warrant of removal”. In an action for monetary damage, a defendant has thirty-five (35) days to answer a complaint. If the defendant files an Answer to the Complaint, at that point in time, all parties are entitled to discovery, or any documents related to the claim. Thereafter, the court will set down a trial date. If the landlord obtains a judgment for monetary damage, the landlord may have to exercise post-judgment remedies such as bank levies, wage garnishments, etc…. If this information (i.e, bank accounts, employment information) is not available to the landlord, the landlord may engage an investigative service to ascertain this information. Hence, a landlord must remember that there are two parts to every eviction. First, the landlord must initiate an action in the New Jersey Superior Court, Landlord-Tenant Part to obtain a judgment for possession of the leased property.  Next, the landlord must commence an action  for the unpaid rent or any damage to the premises caused by the tenant (above ordinary wear and tear that exceeds the amount of the security deposit). Brian Rader