New Jersey Supreme Court Issues Orders Clarifying Commercial Eviction Procedures in Response to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic

By: Christopher Saliba, Esquire

On February 5, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued an Order clarifying and expanding certain provisions of the Court’s July 14, 2020, Order relating to Order to Show Cause applications for residential and commercial landlord/tenant eviction trials.

As a background, the July 14, 2020, Order provides that landlords may apply for an Order to Show Cause requesting a landlord/tenant trial be scheduled in certain emergent circumstances. The basis of that landlord/tenant action cannot be nonpayment of rent, except in the case of the death of the tenant. In determining whether to issue the Order to Show Cause, the court will review the complaint and determine whether an emergency exists (e.g., violence against other tenants; criminal activity; extreme damage to residence; death of tenant resulting in vacancy of the rental unit), and based on that determination may schedule a landlord/tenant trial. As permitted by Executive Order 106, an eviction may proceed in the “interest of justice.” This guideline applied to both residential matters and commercial matters.

The Court’s most recent Order expands the guidelines relating largely to commercial actions. Specifically, the Court’s Order provides that landlords may, in emergent circumstances­, apply for an Order to Show Cause for eviction in commercial matters. For these matters, the basis of the landlord/tenant action cannot be nonpayment of rent, except where: (i) the tenant has vacated the property; (ii) the tenant’s business is not operating and will not resume operations; or (iii) the commercial landlord is facing foreclosure or a tax lien. The court, based on its determination as to whether an emergency exists, may schedule a landlord/tenant trial, as permitted by Executive Order 106. Following any such trial an eviction may proceed in the “interest of justice.”

On February 5, 2021, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a Notice to the Bar resuming the issuance of writs of possession in commercial foreclosure actions only. Even though commercial foreclosure trials have continued throughout the ongoing pandemic, the courts have withheld all post-judgment action, including the issuance of writs of possession. Effective February 15, 2021, New Jersey courts will resume post-trial activity, including issuance of writs of possession, for commercial foreclosure matters.