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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    2

    Default Being Evicted Over Other Tenants' Rent

    My landlord has filed eviction proceedings for me, but there are many factors that make this case unique, and the advice I've read on line don't necessarily account for all the special circumstances.

    I have a very irresponsible (but otherwise kind) landlord, who has done almost nothing by the book. The living arrangement here violates legal landlord arrangements in several ways. The type of rental this is zoned for is one where the landlord lives on premises, and rents the whole house out. However, in reality, the landlord rents the rooms individually, and lives in Florida. He shows up on average about twice a year, asks for rent, and then disappears within a day or two. He does not want checks mailed and does not give us his real address, possibly to cover his ass for not really living there, or because he just wants to be "off the grid."

    Because he shows up so infrequently, I or one of the other roommates will frequently fill vacancies in the house, but not because of any formal agreement to do so. The landlord was showing up so rarely that people would sometimes move in and out without ever meeting him. Because of this I started collecting rent from new tennants, again, not because I was asked to, but simply to help the landlord, whom I like. I was never expected to be accountable for any of these people, and nothing in any of my conversations with him ever led me to believe otherwise.

    So, recently my house was robbed, and some of the rent money that I had not yet made money orders of (and money orders I had not filled out the name on) were stolen. The landlord emerged shortly thereafter, and was generally understanding, but a week later changed his mind and suddenly filed eviction proceedings without warning. He filed these proceedings against me specifically, for the amount owed by the entire house, as if I was a lease holder on the entire house and the others were subletting from me. I moved in several years after some of my roommates and never had any such arrangement with him. Although I will have the amount I personally owe him before the court date, there is no way I can have the full amount.

    Possibly relevant factors:
    1) The house is owned by two brothers. The one the city recognizes as the landlord I have never met, and is currently in prison in Florida for an extended term.
    2) This incarcerated brother is the one whose name appears on the eviction proceedings.
    3) This person may have lost their landlord privileges due to unpaid city fines (but the brother could have paid to have them restored. It's unclear)
    4) The house is not zoned for an off-site landlord or rental agreements for individual rooms. Our arrangement has always been under the table and totally illegal.
    5) No one in this house moved in at the same time and no one has ever signed a lease.
    6) The house is poorly maintained and seems unlikely pass any kind of inspection. The plumbing works and all, but nothing about it could ever pass inspection, with holes in the wall, no smoke detectors, etc. What repairs are done are handled almost exclusively by me or other tenants.
    7) There have been times where I didn't see the landlord for about a year.

    So my question is how best to handle this and what to expect. My goal here, if possible, is to simply stall long enough for my housemates to make up the stolen money and give us a chance to work things out. Despite this sudden and unexpectedly harsh action against us, I actually like the guy and I think he's just a irresponsible, so I don't really want to get him fined or get the house shut down. If I can force him to re-file and buy another month, that would probably be a big help.

    Sorry for ghetto problems. Yay poverty.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    73,187

    Default Re: Facing Eviction in New Jersey

    Quote Quoting Bosch
    View Post
    The type of rental this is zoned for is one where the landlord lives on premises, and rents the whole house out. However, in reality, the landlord rents the rooms individually, and lives in Florida. He shows up on average about twice a year, asks for rent, and then disappears within a day or two.
    I cannot comment on the zoning or what is required of your landlord, as I have no information about the relevant zoning ordinances and no information that might allow me to look them up.

    I can't comment on your arrangement with your landlord - he would presumably characterize you as some sort of agent, responsible to rent out the rooms, collect and remit the rent. You seem to have assumed that role. If this is litigated, the court will have to sort things out.

    You can attempt to defend against the eviction action by contending that the person bringing the action is not the landlord and is not authorized to act for the landlord. I don't have enough information to comment on whether or not that would succeed. I don't know if the brother behind the lawsuit would be deemed to be a property manager, you haven't indicated if they're using a lawyer... too many unknowns.

    If you want to investigate with the city whether or not this is a lawful rental, you can contact them tomorrow morning and investigate. If you want to arrange for a housing inspection, you can inquire about that as well.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Facing Eviction in New Jersey

    Quote Quoting Bosch
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    Possibly relevant factors:
    1) The house is owned by two brothers. The one the city recognizes as the landlord I have never met, and is currently in prison in Florida for an extended term.
    2) This incarcerated brother is the one whose name appears on the eviction proceedings.
    3) This person may have lost their landlord privileges due to unpaid city fines (but the brother could have paid to have them restored. It's unclear)
    4) The house is not zoned for an off-site landlord or rental agreements for individual rooms. Our arrangement has always been under the table and totally illegal.
    A few thoughts. I don't understand what you mean by not zoned for off-site landlords, even single family residential zoning is generally rentable, but only to a single family, in other words, it can't be converted into a boarding house, like it sounds like it has been in your situation.

    The NJ Truth in renting booklet: http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/code..._lti/t_i_r.pdf Read it, and pay special attention to the section on landlord registration. He can't evict you if he isn't properly registered. Among other things, that requires contact information for someone available 24 hours a day to maintain the property, and the address of someone in the same county as the property to accept service of legal notices. Hiding from you just isn't an option he has.

    If the house is indeed jointly owned by the the two brothers, either of them should be able to file an eviction. However, if the eviction has been filed in the name of the absent brother, only that individual or a recognized member of the NJ bar representing him may appear in court. If the individual you are calling your landlord appears, object the minute he opens his mouth, as he is not a party to the case. NJ courts are very strict on this point, and the case will be immediately dismissed if there isn't a proper party to prosecute the case.

    More general advice; if you want to continue living with your current arrangement I would share the Truth in Renting book with your landlord and try work something out. If this place is as illegal as you say, and you do call in inspectors this is not going to end well for him. He won't be able to evict you for non-payment of rent unless the place is properly registered and up to code(state minimum is heat, hot water, and fire inspection.) He's probably going to end up having to evict you and all the tenants under cause G3(illegal occupancy) which means he pays your and every other tenants moving expenses + six months rent.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    2

    Default Re: Facing Eviction in New Jersey

    Quote Quoting Viper_nj
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    A few thoughts. I don't understand what you mean by not zoned for off-site landlords, even single family residential zoning is generally rentable, but only to a single family, in other words, it can't be converted into a boarding house, like it sounds like it has been in your situation.

    The NJ Truth in renting booklet: http://www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/code..._lti/t_i_r.pdf Read it, and pay special attention to the section on landlord registration. He can't evict you if he isn't properly registered. Among other things, that requires contact information for someone available 24 hours a day to maintain the property, and the address of someone in the same county as the property to accept service of legal notices. Hiding from you just isn't an option he has.
    This helps clarify the the reason he maintains a fake address on the property. If he claims that he is both an occupant of the house, and that he is renting the rest of the house as a single unit, he doesn't have to be registered as the landlord. However, both of these claims are highly suspect. He receives mail at the place, but he only shows up maybe twice a year and stays for a day or two. Other than the testimony of my house mates, what might I do to establish that he is not living here?

    He won't be able to evict you for non-payment of rent unless the place is properly registered and up to code(state minimum is heat, hot water, and fire inspection.
    We have heat and hot water, but I highly doubt this place would pass a fire inspection. There isn't even a single smoke detector in the house.

    This is all helpful information, it's becoming clearer how to focus my case.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Posts
    13

    Default Re: Facing Eviction in New Jersey

    Ok, I didn't get from your original post that he is claiming to be running an "owner-occupied" rental property. If he gets the court to recognize him as such, he is then not subject to the anti-eviction law, and can evict you after proper notice without cause. A couple more research ideas you may find helpful.

    1. Check the zoning, it'll be in the town code book, most towns have it online. If it's not zoned for multi-family residential, it's not possible to be an "owner-occupied" rental. While you are checking the town code book, look to see if they require a CO for rentals, not all towns do, but if it's required, then he has to have it to evict.

    2. You can attack his status as "owner-occupied" by proving that he is either not the owner or that he doesn't occupy it. Here's a non-scholarly article about what the courts look for in deciding if someone is an occupier.
    http://www.feinsuch.com/lawyer-attorney-1372750.html
    And the full opinion for more detail.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_ca...=1&oi=scholarr

    I just skimmed both of them but it seems like there is no hard and fast rule, the courts are to decide on a case by case basis. Also, he doesn't have to make it his primary residence to qualify, an occasional vacation residence would be ok. They will look at things such as, do they receive mail, do they maintain clearly separate quarters for their exclusive use, are the quarters furnished, how many days do they actually spend there,etc.

    You can check on his status as an owner as well, the county clerk will have the deed of record for the property. Again, most counties have this information online, free or for a nominal fee. That may not be as useful though, the opinion I'm referencing below shows the courts have held that a 3% ownership interest was sufficient, and they basically said that even less than that is probably OK too. So it would seem that as long as his name is on the deed, he's good there. But you should still probably check, it's odd that he filed in the name of his incarcerated brother, he may not be on the deed.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_ca...=2,31&as_vis=1

    3. He wouldn't pass fire inspection as is. He needs a smoke dectector on every floor + 15 feet from every bedroom, 1 CO detector per floor, and 1 5lb extinguisher. It won't take more than an hour to remedy all that, but it still might be good for a dismissal and a few weeks to get back on the court calendar.

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