How to Evict a Squatter in NJ

How to Evict a Squatter in NJ: A Step-by-Step Guide

Discovering that someone has taken up residence in your property without permission can be a frustrating and challenging situation. These individuals, commonly known as squatters, are individuals who occupy a property unlawfully and refuse to leave. If you find yourself dealing with a squatter in New Jersey (NJ), it is essential to understand the proper legal procedures to regain possession of your property. This article will guide you through the process of evicting a squatter in NJ, ensuring a smooth and legal resolution to the situation.

1. Document the situation: Before taking any legal action, gather evidence of the squatter’s occupation. Take photos or videos of the property, noting any signs of habitation, such as personal belongings or utilities being used. This documentation will be crucial for your case.

2. Verify ownership: Ensure that you have legal ownership of the property. Gather all relevant documents, such as the deed, lease agreement, or mortgage papers, to establish your ownership status.

3. Contact local authorities: Inform the local police department about the situation. While they may not be able to remove the squatter immediately, it is crucial to have an official record of your complaint.

4. File an ejectment action: In NJ, evicting a squatter involves filing an ejectment action in the county where the property is located. Consult with an attorney to draft the necessary paperwork, including a complaint and summons.

5. Serve the squatter: Once the ejectment action is filed, the squatter must be served with the summons and complaint. This must be done according to the legal requirements of NJ. Hiring a professional process server is usually the most effective way to ensure proper service.

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6. Attend the hearing: After being served, the squatter will have a specified time to respond to the complaint. If they fail to respond, a default judgment may be issued in your favor. If they do respond, a court hearing will be scheduled, where both parties can present their cases.

7. Obtain a judgment of possession: If the court rules in your favor at the hearing, you will receive a judgment of possession. This allows you to legally regain possession of your property. However, it is essential to note that squatters in NJ may have a right to redeem the property within ten days by paying any outstanding rent or taxes.

8. Coordinate with law enforcement: Once you have obtained a judgment of possession, work with local law enforcement to schedule a time for the physical removal of the squatter. The sheriff’s office is typically responsible for carrying out the eviction process.

9. Change locks and secure the property: After the squatter has been removed, change the locks and secure the property to prevent any further unauthorized entries. This will help protect your property from future squatters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

1. Can I forcefully remove a squatter myself?
No, self-help evictions are illegal in NJ. You must follow the proper legal procedures and obtain a court order to evict a squatter.

2. How long does the eviction process take?
The timeline for evicting a squatter in NJ varies depending on the complexity of the case and the court’s schedule. It can range from a few weeks to several months.

3. Can I negotiate with the squatter to leave voluntarily?
While it is worth attempting negotiation, squatters often refuse to leave voluntarily. Legal action is usually necessary to regain possession of your property.

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4. Can I claim damages caused by the squatter?
Yes, you can pursue a separate legal action to recover any damages caused by the squatter, including property damage or unpaid rent.

5. Do I need an attorney to evict a squatter?
While it is possible to handle the eviction process without an attorney, consulting with one is highly recommended. An attorney will ensure that you follow the correct legal procedures and increase your chances of a successful eviction.

6. Can I charge the squatter rent?
No, you cannot charge rent to a squatter. Occupying the property without your permission makes their presence unlawful, and they have no legal obligation to pay rent.

7. Can I evict a squatter during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, the eviction process in NJ resumed on June 1, 2021, after a temporary moratorium due to the pandemic. However, consult with an attorney to understand any specific guidelines or restrictions in place.

By following these steps and understanding the legal process involved, you can effectively and lawfully evict a squatter in NJ. Remember, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney is essential to navigate the complexities of eviction laws and ensure a successful outcome.