skip to main content
housing Banner

Cees Schaap / Alamy Stock Photo

Housing Housing

Advocating for Due Process in
Eviction Proceedings

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the firm has been working with a coalition of tenant advocates to promote due process in eviction proceedings. We were part of a special committee appointed by the New Jersey Supreme Court to make recommendations on how to improve the process. We submitted comments on the report of that committee, and we have interacted with the courts ever since to address issues with the implementation of the changes the Supreme Court adopted.

We continue to advocate so that tenants are not evicted based on facially deficient complaints.

As pandemic-related protections have wound down and rental assistance has dried up, the number of evictions has again begun to climb, though without yet reaching pre-pandemic levels.

Even as the curve trends upward, the courts have retreated from some of the protections installed as part of the landlord-tenant reform process. In particular, the courts have eliminated pretrial case management conferences. These conferences never achieved their promise because of issues with their implementation. For example, court staff did not consistently elicit or record information concerning the landlord’s reasons for the eviction or the tenant’s defenses, and judges did not consistently review this information even if it was recorded. But the conferences played a critical role in connecting low-income litigants with potential legal and rental assistance.

In September 2023, Lowenstein joined with other leading tenant advocates in drafting an op-ed, published in the state’s leading newspaper, criticizing the courts for prematurely abandoning the effort to make pretrial conferences meaningful.

At the same time, we joined with other advocates to urge the court toward the successful implementation of an alternative reform it put in place when the conferences were eliminated. At the direction of the Administrative Office of the Courts, staff in landlord-tenant court are now required to review eviction complaints for deficiencies that prevent their filing. The courts are supposed to notify landlords of these deficiencies, offer them a chance to cure, and dismiss the complaints if they are not cured.

In collaboration with the coalition, Lowenstein proposed a checklist for court staff to use to identify filing deficiencies. We also asked the courts to resume the practice of including trial dates in summonses, which are personally served on tenants. We continue to advocate for these steps so that tenants are not evicted based on facially deficient complaints, and so they know when their trials are scheduled. The court is working with us to assess our recommendations and correct the issues we have identified.

*N.J. Court Management Statistics for each listed year, p. 50