We were late for the rent habitually but paid late fees. We never received a court notice and therefore missed the court date. At the time of the court date in January we were up to date on all actual rent through December (other than some of the late fees) and were never more than 30 days late. We never received the eviction notice resulting from the court date and the first we knew of this we got a knock on the door in mid-February and were thrown out in the cold. The landlord claims that all notices were either mailed or posted on the door but we never received any and they have not furnished any proof that they sent them. The eviction notice was served when we were not home. If it was posted on our door it was not there when we returned the following day. The sheriff also did not hand us a copy of the eviction notice when he threw us out, which I believe is required. I have written the court and have all the documents. We now have a bill that is ridiculous. If the eviction was illegal we would be interested in taking legal action. If it was legal we would be interested in paying what is fair.
You have admitted that you were habitually late with your rent payments; your eviction was ordered by the court, so it is not "illegal" because that term is reserved for landlords who lock out tenants without any court approval. Your statement that "[a]t the time of the court date in January we were up to date on all actual rent through December" means that you were still late with January's rent, which would have given your landlord the right to evict you for either non-payment or habitual late payment of rent. "Habitual late payment of rent" is one of the 18 statutory causes for eviction under New Jersey's Anti-Eviction Law. In order to be permitted to evict a tenant on this basis, the landlord must first send the tenant a Notice to Cease, specifying that if the tenant continues to pay his rent late, the tenancy will be terminated and the tenant will be required to vacate the premises. The landlord must then wait at least two additional months to see if the tenant complies with the Notice to Cease; if the tenant pays on time for those additional 2 months, then the matter is over, but if the tenant continues to pay late, then the landlord must send a Notice to Quit, which terminates the tenancy and sets the date by which the tenant must vacate the premises. If the tenant fails to vacate by the appointed date, then the landlord must file a complaint for eviction with the court. It is the Clerk of the Hudson County Superior Court, Law Division, Special Civil Part who serves the Summons and Complaint upon the tenant via ordinary mail and unless the envelope is returned undelivered to the court, receipt by the tenant is assumed. If the landlord failed to serve the requisite notices upon the tenant prior to filing the eviction complaint, the court would not have granted a judgment of possession, however if the tenant does not appear in court to refute the claims of the landlord, judgment by default is entered in the landlord's favor with no inquiry into the appropriateness of that judgment. If the landlord had not served the required notices for habitual late payment, the only basis for eviction would have been non-payment of January's rent and no prior notices are required for that. Your claim that "[w]e never received the eviction notice resulting from the court date". If by that you are referring to a written "decision" in the case, be advised that that is not how things work; a tenant is expected to be in court on the appointed trial date and is apprised of the outcome of the trial by being there and hearing the judge. No further confirmation of judgment is sent by the court or any other party. If you are referring to the Warrant of Removal, which is the instrument by which the court-appointed officers notify tenants of their upcoming eviction dates, that is also a function of the court system, and is not the landlord's obligation. These issues would not render your eviction illegal, but may have made it improper.
In such circumstances, the only recourse a tenant has is to file a motion to vacate the default in order to get their day in court. You would need to convince the judge that you truly did not receive the Summons which included the trial date), Complaint or the Warrant for Removal. If the judge were convinced, he would vacate the default and the case would be put back on the active list and a trial date would be set. With so much time having passed though, it is not clear what good this would do you. I am not sure what the bill to which you refer is for since there is no money at issue in an eviction action. The landlord must file a separate collection suit to recover any money owed by the tenant; an eviction action only deals with possession of the rental property. So, there should not be any bill in connection with the eviction.
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