If you’re a commercial landlord, you already know how hard it is to lease space. Meanwhile, there may come a time that things just don’t work out right. Truth be told, it could be as simple as needing to evict a commercial tenant for failure to pay the rent. Of course, you’ll want to make sure the eviction is done with the help of an attorney experienced in commercial leases and evictions.
Actually, the first step is ensuring that your lease agreement is clear when it comes to the terms you come to with the commercial tenant. If the issue is non-payment of rent, you need to make sure there is a clause regarding late fees and collection of them. Notwithstanding, failure to pay rent is not the only reason you might need to evict your commercial tenant.
Although it’s somewhat obvious, you first need to know the difference between a commercial tenant and a residential tenant. The distinction is that a commercial lease is given to someone who operates a business, whereas residential leases are only applicable when someone lives in the rented space. Therefore, commercial tenants could be anyone leasing storefronts, office space, warehouses or garages.
Commercial Tenant Eviction Laws
Notably, the laws that allow commercial landlords to evict tenants are different than those that apply to residential tenants. In fact, NJSA 2A:18-53 deals with the removal of certain tenants, but specifically excludes those who have residential leases. (Residential landlord/tenant law has its own section.)
First, a commercial tenant can be evicted if they are a “holdover.” This means that the tenant takes it upon themselves to stay beyond the lease term. Notwithstanding, the commercial landlord is required to give the tenant written notice. It is not acceptable to go in and take over the premises and lock the tenant out of the commercial space. Other reasons for eviction of commercial tenants include the following:
- Default on rental payments.
- Tenant acted in a disorderly fashion, thus destroying the peace and quiet of the landlord and/or other tenants.
- Premises willfully destroyed, damaged or injured by the tenant.
- Tenant signed an agreement regarding the landlord’s rules and regulations but constantly violated them.
- Breach or violation of any of the covenants or agreements in the lease that gave the landlord the right to reentry of the premises.
In some circumstances, it may be that the landlord and tenant are able to come to an agreement to avoid eviction. Your attorney can work with you to determine how you wish to proceed. Settlement may be appropriate in certain situations.
Legal Proceedings for Commercial Evictions
Eviction proceedings start with written notice. A summons and complaint will be filed in the county seat where the leased property is located. Therefore, if you are trying to evict a commercial tenant leasing a storefront in downtown Elizabeth, your case will be heard in Elizabeth. By the same token, your complaint would be filed in Newark if you needed to evict a tenant from office space in Bloomfield.
Once your attorney serves the complaint on the tenant, you will be advised of a court date. If you’re lucky, the court date could be as soon as ten days from the date of service. In many cases, it could be as long as thirty days before you go before the judge.
New Jersey law requires commercial landlords that are limited liability companies or corporate entities to retain legal counsel. Actually, this is also true if the commercial tenant falls into either business entity categories.
Your attorney will provide the reasons for the proposed eviction to the court. In cases of non-payment of rent, the tenant may elect to pay the rent in court. This stops eviction proceedings brought only for delinquent payments. Meanwhile, the judge will most likely order mediation in the courtroom. This is to encourage the landlord and tenant to come to an agreement.
If the court does execute a judgment of possession, the next step is to secure a warrant for removal. A constable will execute the warrant in accordance with the law.
Need help with a commercial lease agreement or eviction? Contact the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni to see how we can help!