As you know from a prior post on this blog (https://www.whelan-law.com/residential-evictions-covid-19-style/), there is a moratorium on residential eviction trials in New Jersey. Landlords have filed their cases and are patiently waiting for their day in court.
However, the Supreme Court on July 1 ordered mandatory settlement conferences on residential eviction cases. These conferences will occur remotely and will involve the landlord and tenant and their attorneys, as well as a “settlor” court employee.
Conferences will be prioritized as to the oldest pending cases with the most unpaid rent and any new case where more than 12 months rent is due and owing.
Theoretically, these conferences will be similar to the settlement conferences held before live eviction trials, and include discussion about payment of past due rent and move out dates. It is unclear how successful this will be without a scheduled trial and without face to face interaction.
If the landlord fails to appear at the conference, then the case will be dismissed.
If the tenant fails to appear at the conference, a default judgment will be entered against the tenant, but the tenant cannot be locked out until the eviction moratorium ends.
If no settlement is reached, the case will be scheduled for trial, on or after September 1, 2021.
The tenant will be notified by the court that s/he does not have to settle their case and cannot be locked out until the moratorium ends (which is presently unknown). It is therefore unclear what incentive a tenant would have to settle.
Mandatory settlement conferences for residential eviction cases are here to stay.
We will keep you posted on further developments.