FRKB&G Supreme Court Issues Order Lifting Indefinite Suspension of L/T Trials in Very Limited Circumstances

Since Governor Murphy declared a State of Emergency and a Public Health Emergency, Courts hearing landlord/tenant cases came to a halt. Courthouses were closed and landlord/tenant trial calendars were suspended. According to the Supreme Court’s most recent Order, more than 17,200 landlord/tenant Complaints have been docketed during the pendency of the COVID-19 crisis and have not yet been served on tenants due to the suspension of landlord/tenant trials. An additional 12,500 cases that were pending as of March 16, 2020 have yet to be resolved. An influx of new landlord/tenant Complaints is anticipated when the moratorium imposed by the CARES Act expires on July 25, 2020. In an effort to implement a comprehensive strategy to address the backlog of landlord/tenant cases, the Supreme Court issued an Order on June 11, 2020 suspending landlord/tenant trials until further notice and ordering the Courts to schedule conferences and conduct settlement negotiations to facilitate the resolution of those matters.  

On July 14, 2020, the Supreme Court issued an Order allowing landlord/tenant trials now to proceed in limited circumstances and to allow for processing landlord/tenant cases. Under the Court’s July 14, 2020 Order, landlord/tenant trials remain suspended except in those instances where the Court determines that an emergency exists. Examples of such emergencies include, but are not limited to, documented criminal activity or other health and safety concerns. The Court’s Order expressly states that the basis of the landlord/tenant action cannot be non-payment of rent except in the case of the death of a tenant. The Court’s July 14, 2020 Order also acknowledges that any eviction action may proceed in the interest of justice as provided by Executive Order 106 issued March 19, 2020.  

The Court’s July 14, 2020 Order also relaxes certain Court Rules and outlines the following changes: 

  1. The landlord/tenant Summons and Complaint forms have been amended to include fields for the e-mail addresses for the landlord and tenant, removes the date that the trial date is scheduled (because mediation will be scheduled) and requires the landlord to indicate whether the case involves a residential or a commercial tenancy.  
  1. Since many cases have not been served and/or scheduled for trial, the Court Rules regarding dismissal have been relaxed so as to prevent the dismissal of landlord/tenant Complaints that have been filed. 
  1. For those landlords who have filed a Complaint between March 25, 2020 and July 24, 2020 seeking to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, they must submit to the Court a Cares Act Compliance Certification in a form prepared by the Administrative Director of the Courts. Once the Certification is available, FRKB&G will disseminate the form.  For a copy of the Court’s Order click here.   

In a separate Notice to the Bar, even though lockouts are not permitted, the Court provided clarification as to how to handle warrants of removal that may have or will expire. Warrants must be issued within 30 days of entry of a judgment for possession or executed within 30 days of issuance . If a warrant was issued and is now expired, a landlord will have to apply for an extension on 7 days’ notice to the tenant or apply for a new warrant. This is the process to be followed once lock-outs resume. For a copy of this notice click here. 

Feinstein Raiss Kelin Booker  & Goldstein LLC can be reached at: (973) 324-5400 or online at www.FRKGB.com

This information is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable to all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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