What to Expect When You Appear in Landlord/Tenant Court
January 16, 2015
A famous football coach once remarked that the “will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.” While he may have been discussing athletic competition, his observation holds true for litigation as well. With that in mind, in order to increase your chances of success, it is vital that you carefully prepare for your day in landlord/tenant court. With resources from the New Jersey judiciary, among other sources, available online, you can maximize your preparation so that you can best assist your attorneys in presenting your case.
First, you should understand what the landlord/tenant court can (and cannot) do for you. This court is a court of “limited jurisdiction,” meaning it can only order losing parties to do certain things. The court cannot order a losing tenant to pay money to the landlord. The court can only award possession of the premises at the center of the dispute to the landlord. If you, as a landlord, also seek to recover back-owed rent from your commercial tenant, you must file a separate lawsuit in civil court.
When you appear in landlord/tenant court, it is extremely important to have the evidence you need for your case. There are several possible grounds for seeking to remove a commercial tenant, including the tenant’s holdover after the lease’s expiration, nonpayment of rent, disorderly behavior, damaging the premises, breach of the terms of the lease, or violating rules and regulations that the tenant had accepted in writing.
The landlord will put on its case first at trial, with the tenant going second. If your case centers on nonpayment of rent, a copy of the lease along with copies of rent receipts and any rent payment summaries you prepared may help you prove your case. If the case involves damage to the property, photographs of the damage or written repair estimates might benefit you. If the evidence you want to introduce involves a witness, that person needs to be in court and testify before the judge. A written statement generally will not substitute.
Commercial landlords are more likely to succeed and obtain an order evicting a tenant than their residential counterparts are. However, commercial landlord/tenant cases still often favor tenants, since the court generally dislikes forfeitures, including evictions. If a landlord is suing due to non-payment of rent, the tenant will likely be able to retain possession of the property as long as it gets current with its rent prior to the hearing.
If, as a New Jersey commercial landlord, you succeed, your remedy is more immediate than in a residential setting. When the court officer issues a warrant for removal in a residential lease situation, the tenant is given three business days to pack up and leave. In a commercial situation, the officer may evict the tenant immediately upon serving the warrant.
In landlord/tenant cases, as with many things in life, careful preparation is key. Having the will to prepare is not enough, though. You also need to know how to prepare, and an experienced New Jersey real estate attorney may be able to offer you invaluable assistance in this area. Additionally, your attorney may be able to offer solutions to help you resolve your dispute without having to resort to going to court. Whatever your commercial lease dispute needs, consult the real estate attorneys at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. Our New Jersey real estate attorneys can you reach a “winning” solution. Reach us online or call (201) 587-1500 or (212) 380-8117.
Contact us through our website or call to schedule your free, confidential initial consultation today.
When the Landlord/Tenant Court Isn’t the Correct Place to Hear a Commercial Landlord-Tenant Dispute, New Jersey Real Estate Lawyer Blog, Nov. 14, 2014
Landlord Wins on Security Deposit, Loses Rent and Damages Claims in Appellate Division, New Jersey Real Estate Lawyer Blog, Oct. 10, 2014
Photo credit: Eric Chan at Wikimedia Commons.