Are you a landlord in the process of evicting a tenant? You are far from alone. However, there is something you should know. There’s a slim chance that the court could require you to pay relocation expenses. In fact, the amount due could really set you off.
It’s a bit difficult to quantify the number of eviction proceedings throughout the state. That said, one report claims that one in every eleven of Newark’s residential tenants faced eviction in one year. In many cases, the issue is non-payment of rent. As a landlord, it would seem more than ludicrous to pay relocation expenses for a deadbeat tenant.
Rest assured. A landlord does not have to pay relocation expenses just because a tenant defaults on the rent. However, there is the issue of illegal occupancy. All things considered, that’s where you could find yourself with some unwanted expenditures.
Relocation Expenses: Illegal Occupancy
If you take a look at the dictionary definition for illegal occupancy, you may be taken aback. On the one hand, illegal occupancy pertains to premises used for unlawful purposes. This might apply to someone who leases residential property and uses it to provide prostitution services.
However, that’s not the type of illegal occupancy that would suggest a landlord afford relocation expenses. NJSA 2A:18-61.1g gives municipalities the right to create ordinances assessing penalties to tenants displaced because of illegal occupancy. Meanwhile, NJSA 2A:18-61.1h allows reimbursement for relocation costs to displaced tenants.
For the most part, illegal occupancy occurs when a zoning or code enforcement official says the premises may not be used for residential purposes. Here are some examples:
- Some basement apartments with small windows and only one exit
- Attic room without windows or fire escape
- Garages converted to living space without necessary permits
The bottom line is that residential rentals must follow established guidelines. Take for example, properties zoned for one family homes. You cannot arbitrarily set up your own rooming house.
Under New Jersey law, the court requires many landlords to secure legal counsel in order to start eviction proceedings. This is true of corporate owners and those who own limited liability companies. That said, it is a good idea for every landlord to speak with an attorney with experience in landlord/tenant law. Otherwise, the consequences can be alarming.
Relocation Expenses: The Cost
How are relocation expenses determined? If a tenant is evicted because of a zoning or code violation, they are considered a displaced person. According to the law, the property owner would be responsible for paying “relocation assistance in an amount equal to six times the monthly rental paid by the displaced person.” However, the municipality must have ordinances in place to this effect.
Here’s an example to put the numbers into perspective. Landlord rents a basement apartment for $1100 monthly. In the meantime, a code official visits the apartment and deems it illegal. Does this mean the landlord needs to pay $6600 for relocation costs?
In all candor, it could. However, a New Jersey Supreme Court case provides some valuable insight. In this matter, the municipality did not have an ordinance in place. The court interpreted the statute to require reimbursement “up to” six times the relocation expenses. Additionally, non-payment of rent resulted in some set-offs.
If you need to evict a tenant, it is critical to understand the law. You need an experienced landlord/tenant attorney. Contact Lawrence M. Centanni today!