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NJ Landlord-Tenant Court: Ways to Compromise Before “Taking Your Chances” with the Judge.

Most of the residential eviction cases in New Jersey sound in nonpayment of rent. Often, by the time court date is scheduled the relationship between the landlord and the tenant soured. When both parties appear in landlord-tenant court, the temptation is to believe that either a) the greedy heartless landlord only wants to evict the tenant or b) the deadbeat tenant is looking for a free ride. Despite these temptations, there are three avenues of compromise that can meet both parties’ needs. Keeping these comprises in mind can help the tenant remain in the apartment and the landlord collect rent, while removing the uncertainty of a landlord-tenant trial.

One common compromise available in landlord-tenant court is called a “Consent to Enter Judgment: Tenant Agrees to Vacate.” In this type of settlement, the tenant agrees to give the landlord a judgment for possession of the apartment and ultimately vacate. Here, the parties have ample latitude to determine the exact date on which the tenant will be dispossessed of the apartment. The landlord can allow the tenant more time to find another apartment in exchange for the security of knowing exactly when the tenant will vacate. For further security, the landlord has the satisfaction of knowing that they will be able to apply for a warrant of removal and ultimately a lockout if the tenant fails to comply. This type of agreement can remove some of the unpredictability of the warrant issuance, execution and lockout timing.

Perhaps the most common settlement is called a “Consent to Enter Judgment: Tenant to Remain in Possession.” In this case, the tenant agrees to give the landlord a judgment for possession, but the tenant will remain in the apartment pursuant to the terms of the settlement. For example, a tenant can pay some of the back rent right away and work out a payment plan for the remaining balance. Further, the due date of future rent can be changed or the parties can agree on a new rent. In many cases, landlords are willing to accept something less than the total balance owed. After all, some money today is better than the chance of nothing tomorrow. In exchange for accepting less, the landlord has the security of a judgment. If a tenant violates the terms of the settlement agreement, a landlord can immediately ask the court for a warrant of removal.

A final and, in some ways, unusual settlement is called a “Consent to Enter Judgment: Tenant Agrees to Vacate” but the tenant will be pay some amount of the rent owed to the landlord. This agreement is commonly known as a “Pay and Go.” Both landlords and tenants should be cautious about entering into these agreements. Judges tend to view these agreements skeptically and they often must be read into the court’s record. This type of settlement lacks some of the mutually compromise of others and is viewed accordingly.

It is important to note that no landlord-tenant settlement is as simple as it seems. More complex issues such as the appropriate treatment of tenant’s property, the timing of any warrant request, when payments are to be made and in what form, complicate matters. Since the facts of each circumstance differ, a landlord or tenant should consult an attorney with his/her specific circumstances. Offit Kurman practices landlord-tenant law throughout New York and New Jersey assisting landlords and tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New York City (Manhattan, New York County, Brooklyn, Kings County, Queens, Queens County, Bronx County) and New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business. Contact us today for a guaranteed free initial consultation.