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Time to Change The Locks

Many times, a commercial landlord really does not want to evict a non-paying tenant – particularly in those instances where the landlord is trying to keep up appearances at a center – but is left with little choice when a tenant falls so far behind in rent that the landlord is compelled to sue for possession.

In New Jersey, the eviction process is streamlined and allows a commercial landlord to swiftly regain possession of its property when the tenant has failed to pay rent. Depending upon the county, a landlord who files a tenancy action in New Jersey will get a trial date fairly quickly – usually within two to three weeks of filing a complaint. In the typical commercial eviction case, unless the tenant appears with the rent, the landlord will receive a judgment for possession. This is when the landlord, who wishes to rehabilitate the wayward tenant and keep him in the space, starts to run up against the clock. Once a landlord receives a judgment for possession, he has 30 days from the date of entry of the judgment for possession to apply for a warrant of removal, and the warrant of removal must be executed (i.e. a lockout must occur) within 30 days after the warrant of removal is served. If either period is missed, the landlord must apply to the court, on notice to the tenant, for the warrant to be issued and executed.

The law, however, does give the parties some breathing room if they need time beyond the 30-day time periods set forth in the law to negotiate an agreement whereby the tenant pays its arrears and stays current on the rent. The parties are permitted to agree to extend the 30-day time periods in a writing filed with the clerk of the court.

Thus, even if a landlord has had no choice but to resort to litigation to get the tenant’s attention, it does not mean that the landlord and tenant cannot try to negotiate an outcome more desirable than a lockout.

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