What is the Difference Between an Eviction and an Ejectment
If you are a landlord in New Jersey, you already know that tenants can be evicted for a variety of reasons. For years, New Jersey has been in the forefront of protecting tenants' rights. The easy case for eviction is non-payment. However, New Jersey has complicated statutes regulating when a tenant can be evicted, if it is not a nonpayment of rent case.
The notice requirements must be strictly adhered to when seeking an eviction on a breach of the lease, or sale of the property or conversion to condominiums. Once a landlord has met the notice criteria, a complaint can be filed in the Special Civil Part Landlord Tenant Section. The landlord and the tenant appear in landlord‑tenant court and plead their respective cases. The Court makes a decision and the tenant is either removed from possession of the apartment or the Court finds no grounds to evict. If the Court finds cause to grant possession to the landlord, then the matter is assigned to the constable for removal of the tenant. The earliest a warrant will issue is ten days after the Court enters judgment of possession. The constable is required to go back twice - once for the notice of lockout and then three days later for the actual lockout.
However, when you are seeking to remove a non‑tenant, an occupant, a squatter from your property, that is an ejectment action. A complaint to remove an unauthorized occupant from your premises does not get filed in landlord‑tenant court because there is no actual tenancy relationship. Instead, the property owner must file an ejectment action in the Special Civil Part of Superior Court.
You may question how someone can be living in a property owned by you without your permission. The answer is there are many scenarios where the occupant had possession, but circumstances have changed. For example, the owner of the property may have allowed a child to reside in the home with them and now the owner has died, and that child opposes the sale of the property by the Estate and refuses access and entry to a realtor. In some cases, there is a falling out amongst family members or friends and they refuse to leave the property. Another scenario may be that you purchased a bank owned property through a foreclosure sheriff's sale and the previous property owners are still living at the property and are not leaving without court intervention. Sometimes, it happens when temperatures drop, and homeless persons become squatters taking up shelter in an abandoned house or even a garage. The squatter takes over property without the owner's permission.
Removal of unauthorized occupants requires pursuit of an ejectment action. This action can be trickier. Legal documentation regarding the need to remove the squatter or non‑tenant from your property must be presented. If the judge approves the initial complaint filing, the next step requires serving the unauthorized occupant with the paperwork and notice of the hearing date. It is not unusual for the unauthorized occupants to contest the ejectment proceedings. At that initial hearing, the Court may take testimony and decide the matter, or set it down for another date where there is more time to present the case in its totality. The ultimate goal, however, is the same as the landlord/tenant eviction - applying for a Writ of Possession and returning the rightful uninterrupted use to the title owner. Once the court orders the removal of the occupant, the Sheriff's Department assumes responsibility for the removal of the occupants.