A tenant is a tenant, right? From a landlord’s perspective, as long as rent is paid and paid on time, what is the difference? Anyone following this line of logic is forgetting one thing, the lease. A lease is a legal document where the property owner conveys a property interest to another for a specific period of time in exchange for monthly payments. There is a distinction between a residential and commercial leases. A residential lease involves the rental of real property for use as a living space. A commercial lease involves the use of a space for commercial purposes. So what will a non-paying commercial tenant face in a New Jersey landlord tenant court?
The landlord’s perspective
If a commercial tenant fails to pay rent, it is essentially no different than a residential tenant failing to do so. A commercial landlord is not permitted to seize a tenant’s property in order to obtain payment of rent or other money owed. While this is a common first impulse for any landlord, this move is ill-advised. Much like in a residential tenancy, the proper procedure is a summary dispossession action.
What is the summary dispossess process?
New Jersey landlord tenant law wants you, the commercial landlord, to avoid taking action into your own hands – a landlord must follow proper procedures. The legal term of when a landlord dispossesses a tenant from the property without a proper court order is called a “self-help eviction.” The summary dispossess process allows for evictions under the following circumstances:
- Violation of any covenant clearly set forth in the lease agreement.
- Failure to pay rent and owing past due rent.
- Holdover tenancy, or a tenant that refuses to leave despite receiving notice.
- Disorderly behavior.
- Vandalism or destruction of the property.
Non-payment of rent is the most common reason that landlords go through the summary dispossess process. In keeping with the more business-like approach to a commercial tenancy, the process then breaks down to the following steps:
- A Complaint, “verified” by the landlord, must be filed in the county in which the premises are located. The Complaint must contain the address of the premises along with a detailed computation of the rent, common area maintenance charges, late fees and attorney fees then due and owing. If the landlord is a commercial entity, it must be represented by an attorney. Likewise, the same applies to a tenant if the tenant participates in the proceeding.
- Once filed, the county clerk will affix a summons to the complaint and will mail them both to the tenant at the supplied address.
- A trial date is scheduled anywhere between 10 to 30 days from the service of the Complaint. There is no expectation of an Answer, only that the tenant will appear as scheduled.
- If the tenant fails to appear, the landlord receives a default judgment for possession. If the tenant appears in court, the parties will first meet with a mediator to try and resolve the case. If this fails, the case will be tried before the judge, and the court will determine the amount of rent due, unpaid and owing and will award possession to the landlord (this is a judgment for possession). This is, of course, assumes that the tenant has no defense to the proceeding. Please note, once there is a judgment for possession, a landlord must file a separate action for the unpaid rent.
Even after all this, the tenant is still given the chance to pay what he, she or it owes by the close of business on the date of trial. The rent can be paid directly to the landlord or to the court clerk.
If you have any questions regarding landlord tenant matters involving commercial or residential leases, contact the Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC for a free consultation.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
Call (609) 585-0606 or click the button below to schedule an appointment