Can I Change the Locks on a Tenant in New Jersey?

Evictions in New Jersey can be difficult tasks to pull off successfully for many landlords. New Jersey has very strict and detailed eviction laws, designed to protect both tenants and landlords. Many landlords have asked the question, “Can I change the locks on a tenant in New Jersey?” or “Can I lock a tenant out in New Jersey?” only to find that they have a list of things that must be done before any locks can legally be changed.

Unlike other states, New Jersey does not allow landlords to personally remove people from their property even after the eviction date has passed. Instead, they need to go back to court. Because these situations can vary according to the details, it’s important to make sure you have an experienced legal team to ensure nothing is overlooked.

New Jersey Eviction Process

In New Jersey, the eviction process starts with a notice to cease and can include a notice to quit as well as an eviction hearing. The exact eviction process depends on the reason for removing the tenant, as well as the type of dwelling, any disabilities involved, the source of the tenant’s income, and other factors.

In the simplest of cases, tenants simply refuse to pay rent and the landlord is able to file for an eviction notice. In the most difficult cases, entities such as the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development may have to be notified, a notice to cease filed, a notice to quit filed, and—finally—an eviction notice filed.

Simply changing the locks is usually not a legal option.

Right of Entry

Under New Jersey’s right-of-entry laws, landlords are not allowed to enter a tenant’s household without giving notice unless either it is an emergency or a court has given them the authority to do so after the eviction date has passed. Entering a tenant’s home without one of these conditions being met means that the landlord could face fines and be stuck with an unwanted tenant.

This also means that landlords cannot change locks or remove personal possessions until the tenant has relocated from the premises. If the tenant refuses to move after the date of eviction has passed, the tenant is obligated to pay twice the normal monthly rent for as long as he or she is in the dwelling.

In essence, when you have to go back to court to let a judge know that the tenant refuses to leave, you are asking for permission to change the locks or force the tenant to leave. Eventually, the court will direct you to the police department so that law enforcement can handle the eviction.

Why You Need an Eviction Lawyer

Evictions can be complicated and require extensive knowledge of New Jersey’s laws. At Jean Baptiste & Associates, LLC, our experienced eviction lawyers can make sure that you follow the proper steps for evicting a tenant in New Jersey. Please call our office or complete the form below to schedule a free consultation.

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