Landlord Tenant Courts in New Jersey are bracing for an influx of eviction filings. Over 62,000 eviction notices have already been filed, but that number is expected to increase to 194,000 new filings by 2022. Although it is unclear as to when landlord tenant courts will reopen, a special committee consisting of tenant advocates, landlord representatives, judges, and court staff created a report outlining 18 proposals for filing eviction notices.
One recommendation includes replacing “crowded calendar calls” with scheduled virtual hearings once Gov. Murphy’s eviction moratorium is lifted. Keep in mind that landlords may still file eviction notices even though tenants are protected under the eviction moratorium. Once the moratorium ends, however, the recommendation would require landlords and tenants to submit case information statements and allow tenants to express their side of the story prior to trial.
Another recommendation includes hiring and training legal specialists to help ease the backlog of eviction cases that developed during the pandemic. The courts also proposed giving incentives to landlords and tenants who form an agreement prior to trial, which could ease the overwhelming burden of cases as well.
The special committee’s report drew support and criticism. Advocates believe these proposals will help tenants get the opportunity to strengthen their defense by sharing their side of the issue at pretrial conferences and settlement conferences. Jessica Kitson of the Volunteer Lawyers for Justice believes that “Covid may have shined a light on some of those issues in a way we haven’t seen before.”
On the other hand, these recommendations are seen as a costly knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic that could have negative and lasting impacts on the housing industry. Our very own Attorney Derek Reed voiced his concerns in a NJ.com article, saying, “How are all these conferences going to be heard? Virtually -- but is that even practical? By adding in all these additional steps, the process is going to be delayed unreasonably, and the process will only increase complexity and time it will take to get back legal possession of your apartment.”
He further stated that the special committee’s report didn’t seem to address considerations from housing providers during the pandemic, speculating that the extra forms and calls would further overwhelm the system.
We recognize these recommendations are not perfect, and as New Jersey’s premier law firm in landlord and tenant issues, Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin, Plaza & Reed P.C., Attorneys at Law is prepared to help landlords understand their rights and resources should these recommendations go into effect. To learn about landlord tenant proceedings after the eviction moratorium is lifted, contact us at (973) 828-0203!