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New York v. New Jersey - Let's settle it once and for all.

February 27, 2013 Posted in Landlord/Tenant Law

As can be expected from strong personalities, many New Yorkers and New Jerseyeans are in direct conflict as to the benefits of each of their respective states. From which state has more beautiful beaches to which state boasts the better tasting pizza, residents of both states argue fiercely and unequivocally regarding the benefits of living on either end of the Hudson. Regardless of these superficial albeit heated arguments, residents and landlords of New Jersey and New York most likely will agree that the landlord tenant process in New Jersey allows for a quicker and more efficient eviction proceeding than that of its neighbor.

In a typical New Jersey eviction proceeding, landlords and tenants must abide by the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act, which defines the proper procedures and causes of action as the basis of the summary judgment proceeding. A non-payment action via a verified complaint can be filed without any formal predicate notice, such as a rent demand letter. Landlords can expect a trial date quickly thereafter, approximately within one to two weeks of such filing. Court staff and personnel are directly responsible for the service of all tenants listed on the complaint, which comes at no additional cost to the Landlord. Tenants are not required to answer the complaint and all parties are expected to attend on the trial date. Adjournments are typically not granted, unless for good cause, or with consent by the opposing party, and must be approved by the Judge prior to the court date. On the date of trial, should the tenant fail to attend the proceeding, a default judgment is entered that day and thus permitting the landlord to fill out affidavits, warrant of removal paperwork, without additional documents required such as a non-military affidavit. Should the tenant appear in court, settlement agreements are freely entered into with parties agreeing to settle the dispute on their own accord. Payment plans are negotiated liberally and submitted without judicial review while consent judgments to vacate, when the tenant appears pro se, are reviewed by the court to ensure that the terms are properly understood. Settlement agreements are rarely changed by court staff and/or judges upon receipt. If a settlement cannot be reached, the trial is typically held that day. Trials are usually commenced and concluded within the same day, provided that the solitary issue is non-payment. Judgments granted are only for possession and any monetary dispute is to be handled in a separate collection action in civil court.

Conversely, New York Landlord Tenant cases permit the Landlord to obtain a judgment for possession as well as a monetary judgment for rental arrears. Pleadings and service requirements are significantly more stringent than in New Jersey. Starting off the process is a requirement by the Landlord that a predicate notice be sent to the tenant and served in a manner consistent with RPAPL 735 requiring multiple personal service attempts and a completed affidavit of service. Thereafter, if no funds are received within a time specified in the lease agreement, the Landlord can file its Petition and Notice of Petition with the court. An index number is assigned within two weeks, and is sent to the Landlord for proper service under RPAPL 735. Such notice of petition and petition is then sent to a process server typically, again requiring multiple attempts and a completed affidavit of service to be filed with the Court. From the date of service, the tenant has five days in which to answer the complaint, alleging a defense to the amount due and owing. The tenant could also raise jurisdictional defenses, claiming that service was improperly effectuated. Interestingly, appearance at any court proceeding is not a waiver of jurisdictional defenses, as is permitted in New Jersey. Should no answer be received, the landlord commences the process for filing such default, which includes lengthy paperwork requirements such as a completed non-military investigation and affidavit, nature of occupancy forms, and final judgment requests. Given the influx of cases in NYC Housing Court, this can take up to three weeks to one month for review and processing, and at times return to Landlords for minor service and pleading insufficiencies. Should the tenant appear, adjournments are freely granted and trial dates can be postponed for several months at a time. When settling matters, settlement agreements are reviewed by court personnel and judges and provisions are frequently changed to reflect what different judges believe to be equitable resolutions. Typically, you will see reduction of attorney fees and late fees by the Judge regardless of additional rent provisions in lease agreements. Upon resolution of the matter, it should be noted the landlord’s immediate monetary judgment may permit a quicker collection process on outstanding rental monies.

All in all, the two housing courts have very different nuances and environments. These subtle differences become more and more apparent to experienced landlord tenant attorneys navigating these courts. Regardless of the differences, it is however abundantly clear, that quicker procedures in New Jersey permit landlords a more effective remedy in obtaining possession and reletting the premises to paying customers.

Now, with this settled, perhaps we can finally figure out who the Statute of Liberty really belongs too…

This posting is intended to provide general information and is not intended as specific legal advice or to establish an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Griffin Alexander, P.C. at (973) 366-1188 to assist you with both your Community Association law and Landlord-Tenant law needs.

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