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Landlord-Tenant Settlements: Is Everything on the Table?

All New Jersey landlord-tenant cases have a mediation requirement. This means that the Landlord and the Tenant must, at least, try to resolve their dispute before the case goes before a judge. Mediation is a great opportunity to reach an agreement that works for both Parties and avoids the harshness of a judge calling a winner and a loser. In general, there are three types of landlord-tenant settlements.

In a nonpayment of rent case, the typical settlement agreements are:
• Tenant pays and remains in property;
• Tenant pays no money and vacates the property, and;
• Tenant pays and vacates the property (the reasons for agreeing to a “pay and go” will be discussed in a later post).

Once the parties reach a settlement, the agreement is written down and filed with the court. The landlord/tenant settlement is sometimes filed as a “consent judgment.”
A consent judgment is a settlement agreement “of the parties under the sanction of the court as to what the decision shall be.” Community Realty Management, Inc. v. Harris, 155 N.J. 212, 226 (1998). That means a party can apply to a court to seek enforcement of a settlement. Generally, if a tenant breaks the settlement agreement, the landlord can return to court and apply for an eviction without filing a new eviction complaint.

Many times, there are more than one issue between the landlord and the tenant. For example: In a nonpayment of rent case, other issues include late payments, partial payments and failure to pay late fees. Trying to resolve every issue between the Parties raises the question of waiver and whether a tenant can waive certain rights provided by the Anti-Eviction Act. A savvy landlord might require the tenant to waive some of the Anti-Eviction Act’s rigid and time consuming notice requirements.

Whether a right can be waived is a determination made by a judge. Generally, Parties can waive any right in an agreement. See Midland Funding v. Giambanco, 422 N.J. Super. 301, 310 (App. Div. 2011). Any waivers of rights must be made “with the {party’s] full knowledge and understanding of the consequences of the waiver. Id. at 313. The central question is whether the waiver will survive judicial scrutiny.

Having an attorney present during settlement negotiations is helpful in avoiding a waiver of your rights, or in ensuring that waiver is enforceable.. Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New Jersey assisting landlords and tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business