We Broke Up but She Refuses to Move Out: NJ Eviction Laws

nj eviction

Renting an apartment, condominium or house is a great option for people who aren’t ready to buy a home yet. If you signed your rental agreement as the only tenant, what happens if you meet someone and get into a serious relationship? Most landlords are with your significant other moving in with you, as long as they are informed ahead of time.

It’s such a fun time – moving in together, setting up house and talking about the future of your relationship. Will you get married? Have kids? Perhaps the two of you even take drives, hunting for your ideal NJ town as you consider growing a family together. What type of house would the two of you buy if you got married? Do you want a yard or a pool? Two-car garage or one?

Many relationships that begin just that way go on to enjoy happy marriages, producing one or several offspring, growing older together and watching children meet milestone after milestone. However, what if your ending isn’t of the happy variety?

Of course, not all relationships work out – even when you’ve gone so far as to move in together. In fact, the act of moving in together can sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; cohabitating is a great way to find out if you’re really compatible.

So, here you are: sharing your rented space with your significant other, and things go south. It’s beyond a fight – the relationship is over and beyond repair. Ideally, since you are the lessee and your girlfriend or boyfriend moved in with you, they would yield to your rights to the apartment and move out.

Sometimes, especially if you had a seemingly ‘perfect’ romantic relationship, breaking up is hard to do. Let’s be honest: breaking up is always difficult, but certain people may be less willing to let go without a fight, making an already challenging situation seemingly futile.

What can you do if your significant other (S.O.) decides to make breaking up impossible?

Your name is on the lease. Your relationship has ended, but your S.O. refuses to move out. Without physically picking her up and carrying all of her stuff to the curb (we specifically do not recommend this strategy) – how can you get your space back so that you can move on?

The bad news is, your relationship didn’t pan out the way you’d hoped and dreamed it would. The good news is, you’re not going to be stuck living with an ex forever, even if they throw a fit and resist moving out of your place.

Can I take legal action to remove my ex from my home?

You can! Ding! Ding! Ding! The fact that you solely leased the property and your S.O. is not named on the lease means you can file an Ejectment Action. In New Jersey, eviction law states that an Ejectment is appropriate when a (non-tenant) roommate to whom you are not married refuses to leave. Since they have no legal rights to remain living there, an Ejectment Action is the only recourse.

Because of the intense emotions surrounding kicking out an ex or loved one (Ejectment Actions can also be used to remove other friends or family members who refuse to leave), they have a high potential for contention. It is important that you are aware of this so that you remain calm and distance yourself from any action(s) that may prompt your S.O. to file a complaint against you for domestic violence. If this occurs, you may find yourself jointly kicked out of the rental.

Renters’ Insurance: Do You Really Need It?

According to Zillow, more than $440 billion was shelled out for rent payments in the United States in 2014. UPDATED INFO: That figure rose to $585 billion in 2015 and over $600 billion in 2016. These rising numbers are concurrent with the fact that the number of homeowners is steadily declining while the number of renters is consistently climbing. In fact, in the 10 year time period between 2004 – 2014, this country has seen its peak number of renters since the 1980s (NYT.com).

Given the huge number of Americans who are currently living in a rental (whether an apartment, duplex or single family home), the concept of renters’ insurance has automatically jumped into the hot-seat.

Historically, too many renters made assumptions about the protection of their belongings that ended up costing them large sums of money. For example, a common belief is that renters will be protected under their landlord’s property insurance policies.

Unfortunately that is a misconception that is all too often not clarified when the lease is signed. Typical homeowners’ insurance policies specifically state that any property belonging to a tenant will not be covered in the event of a fire, flood, or other natural disaster.

Additionally, should you or any of your guests be the cause of an accident in your rental that causes harm or injury – your landlord’s liability policy will not have you covered. This could end very badly with you being sued for damages, which could end up costing thousands of dollars.

Although some landlords require their renters to have their own renter’s insurance policy before signing the lease, not all landlords follow this practice. This means the decision is left up to the renter in many cases. Plenty of renters, when faced with the rising cost of rent coupled with the rest of their monthly bills, decide against renters’ insurance.

This is a very bad decision, for many reasons.

  1. Renters’ insurance is very affordable. It is a falsehood believed by many that renters’ insurance is expensive. Naturally, everyone’s policy and costs will vary, but on average you’ll pay a few hundred bucks per year – and that gets you half a million dollars in coverage!
  2. Medical bills can be astronomical. If one of your friends gets injured in your apartment and requires medical attention, s/he can sue you for the costs they incur. Your landlord’s policy will not help you out here, either.
  3. Your landlord may not have a security system in place, and they aren’t required too, either. This may mean that you’re at risk for break-ins and theft. Burglaries are common in big apartment complexes due to the large number of people and high activity that can act as a distraction. If you lose any expensive items to theft or vandalism, renters’ insurance will help you recover the cost.
  4. Natural disasters can destroy all of your property. While your landlord’s insurance policy will take care of the cost of repairing the structure of the building, your personal items inside your apartment will only be protected under renters’ insurance coverage.
  5. Accidents happen. Think about it: have you ever accidentally broken a window or left the bathtub water running too long? Any damage to your rental that is deemed to be your “fault” will be your responsibility.

When you consider the benefits of paying around $20/month, renters’ insurance is a no-brainer! Don’t pass on it just to save a few dollars. If you have an extremely tight budget, look for something less important that you can drop. Consider lowering your cable subscription, getting rid of your landline (as long as you have dependable cell service), cancelling satellite radio, or eating out less often. If you end up in one of the above situations, you’ll be extremely glad you decided to go for the renters’ policy.

What are a Renter’s Rights During a Foreclosure?

foreclosed house

Without a doubt, foreclosure can be a devastating event for homeowners. What’s less commonly discussed, however, are the effects a foreclosure can have on renters.

What, you may ask, does foreclosure have to do with renting? Only homeowners can be foreclosed upon, right? Generally speaking, it is true that foreclosures take place when a mortgagee fails to make his or her loan payments. The bank or lender then steps in to essentially take possession of the home, and the homeowner loses ownership of the property due to non-payment.

That being said, it is definitely possible for a renter to be affected by a foreclosure if they are renting a home or part of a home that goes into foreclosure. The homeowner may still reside in the home along with the renter(s), or the property may be solely inhabited by the renter(s) at the time of foreclosure. For whatever reason, if the owner of the home stops making mortgage payments and the home becomes foreclosed, the renters will be evicted.

Sometimes, whether out of fear, embarrassment, negligence or a combination of all three – a foreclosed homeowner fails to alert the renter(s) to the fact that they will soon be without a place to live. When the foreclosure occurs, tenants will be evicted right along with any homeowners who are living in the home. Unfortunately, if the tenants were not alerted to the upcoming foreclosure, they may find themselves unexpectedly homeless with no warning.

When this happens, the affected tenants do have rights. It is important that renters who find themselves out on the streets due to the homeowner’s failure to inform know that they can take action. If you have been evicted from your rental with no prior warning from your landlord (the mortgage holder) – the first thing you must do is secure all of your belongings that are in the home. If you are only granted access to the property by appointment, do your best to gather friends and family to help you at the allotted time(s) so that you do not lose your belongings along with your place of residence.

As soon as you have recovered all of your personal property that was inside the home, secure a place to stay. You may need to rely on the kindness of friends or a family member during this type of situation, however it should only be temporary. When you are settled, contact an attorney in your area who is familiar with foreclosure and real estate matters. Time is of the essence, so the sooner you hire a real estate lawyer, the better.

With the help of the right real estate/foreclosure attorney, you can file a claim against your landlord (the homeowner) and potentially the new owner of the home for illegally evicting you. In doing so, you may be able to recover some or all of the rent that you paid (in the instance that the home was rented illegally). You may also be able to sue for damages you incurred while you were without a place to live, and when you were denied access to your personal belongings.


Image credit: Sarah Gilbert