Navigating the New Jersey Court System for Your Commercial Leasing Dispute

April 22, 2014

Gavel In most instances, the best solution to your landlord-tenant dispute is the one that helps you avoid having to go to court. Sometimes, an out-of-court resolution is not possible. If you find yourself staring down litigation with your commercial tenant or landlord, it is important to understand how the New Jersey court system handles these cases, and what procedural rights each side holds.

Where your case will begin depends on the nature of your dispute. If the contest involves the possession of the property, then that case will begin in the Landlord/Tenant Section of the Special Civil Division. If you are the party initiating the complaint, the proper court for filing your complaint is the Landlord/Tenant court in the county where the property is located.

In some cases, possession cases can move outside the Landlord/Tenant court. The non-filing party can argue to the Landlord/Tenant court that the case is complicated or it that requires the performance of discovery to resolve properly. If the Landlord/Tenant judge agrees, he or she may transfer the case to the Law Division of the Superior Court. If you are a landlord filing in the Landlord/Tenant court in order to seek an eviction, be aware that your tenant may attempt to obtain a transfer of the case, as moving the case to the Law Division usually offers you tenant more time and strengthens its position in seeking to work out a settlement of the dispute.

If your dispute is not a possession matter, but a contest about back-owed rent, you cannot file that matter in the Landlord/Tenant court. To collect your back-owed rent, you may be able to file in the Small Claims Section. Small Claims Section courts will only hear your case if you’re seeking $3,000 or less. (Small Claims case can involve up to $5,000 if the filing party is a tenant demanding the return of a security deposit.) If the rent your tenant owes you is larger than $3,000, then you must seek your judgment in the regular Special Civil Division court.

If you and your tenant succeed in settling your case before going to court… congratulations! You’ve avoided the stress and expense of a trial. Landlords who settle their cases before the day of their hearing in the Landlord/Tenant court should contact the court and notify it of the agreement. If you settle on the day of trial, you and your counsel must file certain documents with the court in order to make the agreement enforceable.

Like any other legal matter, navigating the court’s rules of procedure is an essential element to achieving success. To make sure that you are not jeopardizing your case by failing to understand all the legal subtleties and procedural requirements, consult the real estate attorneys at Samuel C. Berger, P.C. Our New Jersey real estate attorneys can offer you the skilled and experienced representation you need to pursue your landlord-tenant dispute case. 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.

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