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My landlord plans to file in small claims court for back rent, I am moving out of state. What should I do? Do I need 2 return?

Marmora, NJ |

My current landlord is taking me to court for back rent. He knows I plan to move out of state to get a job & recover financially. Do I have to return in person? Should I file bancruptcy? I agree that I owe him back rent, but he is way over the top with what he's asking for & he is not including a month & a half security deposit. I have offered to pay him what I feel is a fair amount as soon as I am able to, but he simply gets insulting. What should I do? I really need help.

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Attorney answers 4


You could file bankruptcy, yes, but you have to appear for your bankruptcy meeting as well as you would have to appear for a small claims matter. (If the landlord doesn't have a judgment against you get, it's better to file bankruptcy before he gets one). It might be a good idea to sit down with a bankruptcy attorney that won't charge you for an initial consultation, and discuss your options.


Your obligation is to pay him what you owe under the contract--not what you feel is fair. Unless you can show a court what you feel is fair also is the actual amount owed.

If you fail to show up, or be represented by counsel, at court, your LL could very likely get a judgment against you--the court procedure will occur with or without you. Once LL has that judgment, LL can take action to place liens against yoru personal property or garnish your wages. That would NOT be a good way to start off your financial recovery. Recommend you see a NJ landlord tenant attorney (or contact any of the many NJ legal aid organizations and use a volunteer attorney) to fight the LL/or settle with LL now, before you leave the state the prospect of returning for court becomes so seductive you blow off the matter entirely.

READ THIS BEFORE CALLING OR EMAILING ME: I am licensed to practice before the state and federal courts in Virginia. We have not established an attorney-client relationship unless we have a signed representation agreement and you have paid me. I do five my 100% effort to get you on the right track with your issue. Sometimes that means legal educational information, sometimes that means counseling and non-legal guidance. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. I am not obligated to answer subsequent emails or phone calls unless you have hired me. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.


You owe what you commited to under the lease, if you do nothing. In the event the LL sues you may have defenses under the lease that may mitigate the amount that you owe. To answer in more detail I need to speak with you. Please call me at 908 391 5399


Bankruptcy is not the answer. Your lease states what you owe each month in rent and additional rent (if the LL listed fees as additional rent). After you vacate the premises the LL is permitted to deduct from your security deposit what is specified in your lease. Your LL cannot deduct outstanding rent from your security deposit until you vacate. The proceeding is filed in the special civil part not small claims. If you do not appear the LL will be given a default judgment - that you owe whatever is outstanding that is delivered in the notice to you. The only defense to the outstanding amount is 1) you can show that you paid it via a reciept - money order, check etc. 2) that the LL is attempting to collect an amount that is not specified in the lease. Otherwise the court will go with the LL amount.

Robert A. Stumpf

Robert A. Stumpf


Excellent comment, though given her overall situation (including this) bankruptcy could very well be her answer. If she wants a fresh start in a different part of the country, she probably needs a financial fresh start as well. It's at least a possibility.

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