ASSEMBLY, No. 2113

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

214th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED FEBRUARY 11, 2010

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblyman  HERB CONAWAY, JR.

District 7 (Burlington and Camden)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes a civil action for the eviction or removal of persons who commit drug-related crimes on leased residential property.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning the commission of drug-related crimes on leased residential property, supplementing Title 2A of the New Jersey Statutes and amending N.J.S.2A:18-53 and P.L.1974, c.49.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.  (New section)  This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Residential Drug Protection Act."

 

     2.  (New section)  The Legislature finds and declares that:

     a.  All citizens, regardless of their income or economic status, have the right to be safe and secure in their residences. All citizens, further, have the right to live and raise their children in apartment complexes, neighborhoods and communities which are free from the destructive influence of drug dealers and drug-related crime and violence.

     b.  Persons who commit drug distribution offenses on or in the immediate vicinity of leased residential premises, or who permit or tolerate the commission of such offenses, violate the rights and jeopardize the health and safety of the other tenants, residents and on-site employees of the premises.

     c.  It is the policy of this State to ensure the swift eviction and removal of persons who engage in certain drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of leased residential premises, or who permit members of their households or guests to engage in this criminal activity on or in the vicinity of the premises.

     d.  Tenants have an obligation to take such actions as are reasonable and necessary under the circumstances to prevent the commission of drug-related criminal activity within their individual rental units and also to prevent members of their household and guests from committing such criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of any portion of the leased residential premises.

     e.  It is the policy of this State to encourage owners and landlords to protect the rights, safety and health of their tenants and residents by promptly commencing and fully prosecuting civil eviction and removal proceedings against those tenants and other persons who engage in drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of their properties.

     f.  The civil causes of action and remedies authorized by this act are remedial rather than punitive in nature, and are designed first and foremost to protect the rights, safety and health of law-abiding tenants, residents and on-site employees, while affording due process of law to persons alleged to have allowed such criminal
activity to occur on or in the immediate vicinity of leased residential premises.

     g.  Except as may otherwise be expressly provided, it is the general policy of this state to afford the same rights and privileges under this act to the tenants and residents of publicly-owned, publicly-assisted and privately-owned premises and housing facilities.

     h.  Tenants should be empowered to take legal action to protect and enforce their own rights to live in a peaceful community.  Tenant organizations should have access to the courts and should therefore be afforded legal standing to initiate eviction for drug related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of the leased residential premises.

     i.  It is the policy of this State to ensure that the causes of action and remedies authorized by this act are heard by the courts on an expedited and priority basis so as to evict and remove as soon as practicable all persons who engage in drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of leased residential premises or who allow such criminal activity to occur.

     j.  In addition to ensuring the swift disposition of all civil actions brought pursuant to this act, it is necessary and appropriate to ensure certain and uniform enforcement by the courts of the rights and remedies provided by this statute.  Such certainty, predictability and uniformity is essential to discourage persons from committing or tolerating the commission of drug-related criminal activity, and thereby to protect the rights, safety and health of law-abiding tenants and residents.

 

     3.  (New section)  This act is intended to provide a legal process to ensure prompt eviction of persons engaging in specified drug-related criminal activity on or near leased residential premises, or who permit others to engage in such criminal activity. This act is further intended to authorize courts to order persons other than tenants who engage in certain drug-related criminal activity to stay away from the location where the criminal activity occurred.

 

     4.  (New section)  As used in this act:

     "Complete eviction" means the eviction and removal of a tenant and all members of the tenant's household.

     "Controlled dangerous substance," "controlled substance analog," "dispensing or possessing with intent to distribute," "distribution,"  "drug dependent person" and "manufacture" shall have the same meaning as those terms are used in N.J.S.2C:35-1 et seq.

     "Crime" shall have the same meaning as the term is used in N.J.S.2C:1-4.

     "Department of Health and Senior Services" means the State agency designated by the Governor to plan, manage, monitor and evaluate alcohol and other drug treatment services in the State.

     "Drug-related criminal activity" means the unlawful manufacture, sale, distribution, dispensing or possessing with intent to distribute, a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog in violation of the "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987," N.J.S.2C:35-1 et seq., or an unlawful attempt or conspiracy to commit such an act.

     "Entire premises" or "leased residential premises" means a house, building, mobile home or apartment, whether publicly or privately owned, which is leased for residential purposes.  These terms include the entire building or complex of buildings or mobile home park and all appurtenant real property of any nature used in connection therewith, including all individual rental units and common areas.  These terms do not include a hotel, motel or other guest house or part thereof rented to a transient guest.

     "Guest" means any natural person who has been given express or implied permission by a tenant, a member of the tenant's household or another guest of the tenant to enter an individual rental unit or any portion of the entire premises.

     "Individual rental unit" means an apartment or individual dwelling or accommodation which is leased to a particular tenant, whether or not it is used or occupied or intended to be used or occupied by a single family or household.

     "Owner" or "landlord" means a person, entity, corporation or governmental authority or agency who or which owns, operates or manages any leased residential premises.

     "Partial eviction" means the eviction and removal of specified persons other than the tenant from a leased residential premises.

     "Resident" means any natural person who lawfully resides in a leased residential premises who is not a signatory to a lease or otherwise has no contractual relationship to a landlord or owner. The term includes but is not limited to members of the household of a tenant.

     "Tenant" means any natural person or entity who is a named party or signatory to a lease or rental agreement, and who occupies, resides at or has a legal right to possess and use an individual rental unit.

     "Tenant organization" means an organization or association, whether or not incorporated, which is representative of the tenants or residents of a leased residential premises, the membership of which consists of tenants of the leased residential premises which the organization or association represents.  The term also includes a community-based organization with members who are tenants of the leased residential premises.

 

     5.  (New section)  The causes of action established in this act are civil actions to evict or remove tenants or other persons from leased residential premises.  These actions shall be brought in the Superior Court.

 

     6.  (New section)  The civil causes of action established in this act shall be proved by a preponderance of the evidence, except as otherwise expressly provided.

 

     7.  (New section)  a.  A civil action pursuant to this act shall be brought by:

     (1)  The owner or landlord of a leased residential premises, or his or her agent;

     (2)  A tenant organization; or

     (3)  A county or municipal prosecutor, county or municipal attorney or the Attorney General.

     b.  A civil action pursuant to this  act may be brought against any person within the jurisdiction of the court, including but not limited to a tenant, adult or minor member of the tenant's household, guest or resident of the leased residential premises. If any defendant's true name is unknown to the plaintiff, process may issue against the defendant under a fictitious name, stating it to be fictitious and adding an appropriate description sufficient to identify him.

     c.  (1)  A complaint initiating an action pursuant to this act shall be personally served, and notice to all defendants shall be provided in accordance with rules governing civil practice.  After filing an affidavit that personal service cannot be made after due diligence on one or more defendants within 20 days after the filing of the complaint, the plaintiff may:

     (a)  Cause a copy of the complaint to be mailed to the defendant by certified mail, restricted delivery, with return receipt requested to the clerk of the court; and

     (b)  Cause a copy of the complaint to be affixed conspicuously to the main entrance to the premises and to all entrances to the individual rental unit where the drug-related criminal activity is alleged to have occurred.

     Service shall be deemed completed five days after filing with the court proof of mailing and an affidavit that a copy of the complaint has been affixed to the premises.

     (2)  All tenants or residents of any building, place or premises which is used in whole or in part as a home, residence or dwelling, other than transient guests of a guest house, hotel or motel, who may be affected by any order issued pursuant to this act, shall be provided such reasonable notice as shall be ordered by the court and shall be afforded opportunity to be heard at all hearings.

     d.  If an action pursuant to this act is initiated by a tenant organization, county or municipal prosecutor, county or municipal attorney or the Attorney General, the owner of the leased residential premises shall be named as a defendant and shall be served with a copy of the complaint pursuant to subsection c. of this section.  Any agent of the owner may be named as a party and shall have the right to appear and participate in all proceedings conducted pursuant to this act.

     e.  Any person who states upon an oath in writing that he is preparing to initiate an action pursuant to this act, may request that the county register of deeds and mortgages promptly provide, without charge, the name and address of all owners of the leased residential premises where the drug-related criminal activity is alleged to have occurred, as reflected upon the current county records.

 

     8. (New section) a. Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections n. and p. of section 2  of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) to the contrary and subject to the provisions of subsection b. of sections 9 and 28 of this act, the court shall order the eviction, as set forth in subsection b. of section 14 and section 16 of this act, of a tenant if it finds that:

     (1)  Drug-related criminal activity has occurred on or within the individual rental unit leased to the tenant;

     (2)  The individual rental unit leased to the tenant was used in furtherance of or to promote drug-related criminal activity;

     (3)  The tenant, any member of the tenant's household or any guest has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of any portion of the entire premises;

     (4)  The tenant has given permission to or invited a person to return or re-enter any portion of the entire premises, knowing that the person has been removed and barred from the entire premises pursuant to this act; or

     (5)  The tenant has failed to notify law enforcement or public housing authorities immediately upon learning that a person who has been removed and barred from the tenant's individual rental unit pursuant to this act, has returned to or re-entered the tenant's individual rental unit.

     b.  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections n. and p. of section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) to the contrary and subject to the provisions of subsection b. of section 9 and section 28 of this act, the court shall order the immediate removal from the entire premises of any person other than the tenant, including but not limited to an adult or juvenile member of the tenant's household, if the court finds that such person has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of any portion of the leased residential premises.  Persons removed pursuant to this section shall be barred from returning to or re-entering any portion of the entire premises.

     c.  If the court finds that a member of the tenant's household, or guest or resident of the tenant's leased residential premises, has engaged in a drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of any portion of the leased residential premises, but such person has not been named as a party defendant, has not appeared in the action or otherwise has not been subject to the jurisdiction of the court, a removal order issued pursuant to subsection b. of this section shall be directed against the tenant, and shall provide that as an express condition of the tenancy, the tenant shall not give permission to or invite the barred person or persons to return to or re-enter any portion of the entire premises.  The tenant shall acknowledge in writing that he understands the terms of the court's order, and that he further understands that the failure to comply with the court's order will result in the mandatory termination of the tenancy pursuant to section 14 of this act.

 

     9.  (New section)  a.  The court may refrain from ordering the complete eviction of a tenant pursuant to subsection a. of section 8 of this act, if the tenant has established that he was not involved in the drug-related criminal activity, and that he:

     (1)  Did not know or have reason to know that drug-related criminal activity was occurring on or within the individual rental unit, that the individual rental unit was used in furtherance of or to promote drug-related criminal activity, or that any member of the tenant's household or any guest has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of any portion of the entire premises;

     (2)  Did everything that could reasonably be expected in the circumstances to prevent the commission of the drug-related criminal activity; or

     (3)  Promptly reported the drug-related criminal activity to appropriate law enforcement authorities.

     b.  If the grounds for a complete eviction have been established, the court shall forthwith order the eviction of the tenant, unless, considering the circumstances of the criminal activity and the condition of the tenant, the court is clearly convinced that immediate eviction or removal would be a serious injustice, the prevention of which overrides the need to protect the rights, safety and health of the other tenants and residents of the leased residential premises.

     c.  The burden of proof for the affirmative defense set forth in subsection a. of this section shall be by a preponderance of the evidence.  The burden of proof for the exemption set forth in subsection b. of this section shall be by clear and convincing evidence.

 

     10.  (New section)  a.  If the plaintiff has established grounds for a complete eviction but the court finds that the tenant has satisfactorily established the basis for an affirmative defense or exemption pursuant to section 9 of this act, and the court in its discretion elects not to order the complete eviction of the tenant, the court, except as otherwise provided in section 28 of this act, shall order the immediate removal from the entire premises of any person other than the tenant, including but not limited to adult or minor members of the tenant's household, who has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on any portion of the entire premises.  Persons removed pursuant to this section shall be permanently barred from returning to or re-entering any portion of the entire premises.  The court shall further order as an express condition of the tenancy that the tenant shall not give permission to or invite any person who has been removed pursuant to this act to return to or re-enter any portion of the entire premises.

     b.  The tenant upon whom a partial eviction is imposed shall acknowledge in writing that he understands the terms of the court's order issued pursuant to subsection a. of this section, and that he further understands that the failure to comply with the court's order will result in the mandatory termination of the tenancy pursuant to section 8 of this act.  Refusal by the tenant to acknowledge such terms, as required by this subsection, shall invalidate any prior finding by the court that an exemption to a complete eviction exists, or that the tenant has satisfactorily established an affirmative defense.

 

     11.  (New section)  If the court determines in its discretion that the plaintiff bringing an action pursuant to this act has failed to prosecute the matter with reasonable diligence, the court may substitute as plaintiff any person or entity that consents thereto, provided that the person or entity would have been authorized pursuant to the provisions of this act to initiate the action.

 

     12.  (New section)  Any removal or eviction issued by a court pursuant to this act shall be enforced by the person bringing the action, provided, however, that the local police department or sheriff shall, upon the request of the person or entity bringing the action, assume responsibility for the actual execution of the removal or eviction.

 

     13.  (New section)  Any person who knowingly violates any order issued pursuant to this act, or who knowingly interferes with, obstructs, impairs or prevents any law enforcement officer from enforcing or executing any order issued pursuant to this act, shall be subject to contempt of court under N.J.S.2C:29-9.  Nothing in this section shall be construed in any way to preclude or preempt a criminal prosecution for any other criminal offense.

 

     14.  (New section)  a.  Any person authorized to bring an action pursuant to this act may at any time move to enforce a removal issued pursuant to this act.

     b.  A motion to enforce a removal order shall be heard on an expedited basis and within 14 days of the filing of the motion.

     c.  The court shall order the immediate eviction of the tenant if it finds that:

     (1)  The tenant has given permission to or invited any person removed or barred from the leased residential premises pursuant to this act to return to or re-enter any portion of the premises;

     (2)  The tenant has failed to notify appropriate law enforcement or public housing authorities immediately upon learning that any person who had been removed and barred pursuant to this act has returned to or re-entered the tenant's rental unit; or

     (3)  The tenant has otherwise knowingly violated an express term or condition of any order issued by the court pursuant to this act.

 

     15.  (New section)  It shall not be a defense to an action brought pursuant to this act that the drug-related criminal activity was an isolated incident or otherwise has not recurred.  Nor is it a defense that the person who actually engaged in the drug-related criminal activity no longer resides in the tenant's rental unit.

 

     16.  (New section)  a.  When a complaint is filed initiating an action pursuant to this act, the court shall set the matter for a hearing which shall be held on an expedited basis and within (1) 20 days after the filing of an answer or (2) 30 days after service of the complaint if no answer is filed.

     b.  The court shall not grant a continuance, nor shall it stay the civil proceedings pending the disposition of any related criminal proceedings, except for compelling and extraordinary reasons or on application of the county prosecutor or Attorney General for good cause shown.

 

     17.  (New section)  Notwithstanding section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) or any other provision of law, rule or regulation concerning the procedures otherwise used in eviction proceedings, it shall not be necessary to provide notice to the tenant to vacate the premises prior to filing the complaint initiating a civil action pursuant to this act.

 

     18.  (New section)  No relevant testimony or evidence shall be excluded from any civil action brought pursuant to this act on account of the manner by which it was obtained by a law enforcement officer or agency, notwithstanding that the civil action may have been brought by a county or municipal prosecutor, county or municipal attorney, or the Attorney General.

 

     19.  (New section)  a.  The fact that a criminal prosecution involving the drug-related criminal activity is not commenced or, if commenced, has not yet been concluded or has terminated without a conviction or adjudication of delinquency, shall not preclude a civil action or the issuance of any order pursuant to this act.

     b.  When a criminal prosecution involving the drug-related criminal activity results in a final criminal conviction or adjudication of delinquency, such conviction or adjudication shall be considered in the civil action as creating a rebuttable presumption that the drug violation occurred; provided, however, that any such final conviction or adjudication shall estop the convicted defendant or adjudicated juvenile from denying the essential allegations of the criminal offense in any subsequent civil proceeding brought pursuant to this act.

     c.   Any evidence or testimony admitted in the criminal proceeding, including recordings or transcripts of the adult or juvenile criminal proceedings, whether or not they have been transcribed, may be admitted in the civil action initiated pursuant to this act.

 

     20.  (New section)  The parties to an action brought pursuant to this act shall not be entitled to conduct discovery otherwise available in a civil action except by leave of court where required to ensure the fair disposition of the civil action.  However, the plaintiff in a civil action brought pursuant to this act shall provide to the tenant and all other named defendants a reasonable opportunity prior to the hearing to examine any relevant documents or records within the plaintiff's possession which directly relate to the action, subject to the limitations of section 22 of this act.

 

     21.  (New section)  If proof necessary to establish the grounds for eviction depends, in whole or in part, upon the affidavits or testimony of a  witness who is not a peace officer, the court may, upon a showing of prior threats of violence or acts of violence by any defendant or any other person, issue orders to protect the witness, including but not limited to, the nondisclosure of the name, address or any other information which may identify the witness.

 

     22.  (New section)  A law enforcement agency may make available to any person or entity authorized to bring an action pursuant to this act any police report or edited portion thereof, or forensic laboratory report or edited portion thereof, concerning drug-related criminal activity committed on or in the immediate vicinity of the leased residential premises.  A law enforcement agency may also make any officer or officers available to testify as a witness or expert witness in a civil action brought pursuant to this act.  The agency shall not disclose information if, in the agency's opinion, disclosure would jeopardize an investigation, prosecution or other proceeding, or if disclosure would violate any federal or State statute.

 

     23.  (New section)  A landlord or owner shall be entitled to collect rent due and owing from the tenant during the pendency of any civil action brought pursuant to this act.

     24.  (New section)  A tenant organization, county or municipal prosecutor, county or municipal attorney or the Attorney General, bringing a successful action pursuant to this act, including an action ultimately discharged under subsection k. of section 28 of this act, shall be entitled to recover the cost of the suit, including but not limited to reasonable attorney fees and costs from the landlord or owner of the leased residential premises involved, provided that the landlord or owner, or his appropriate agent, refused to bring the action within 10 days after having been requested to do so in writing, delivered personally or by certified mail, return receipt requested.  If the court determines, pursuant to section 11 of this act, that an owner or landlord of the leased residential premises, or his agent, has failed to prosecute the action with reasonable diligence, the owner, landlord or agent shall be responsible for the payment of all reasonable costs of the suit expended by a prevailing substitute plaintiff designated pursuant to section 11 of this act notwithstanding that the owner, landlord or agent initiated the action.

 

     25.  (New section)  The court before which the civil action has been brought pursuant to this act shall have the authority at any time to issue a temporary restraining order, grant preliminary relief or take such other actions as the court deems necessary to enjoin or prevent the commission of drug-related criminal activity on or in the immediate vicinity of leased residential premises, or otherwise protect the rights and interests of all tenants and residents.

 

     26.  (New section)  The causes of action and remedies authorized by this act shall be cumulative with each other and shall be in addition to, not in lieu of, any other causes of action or remedies which may be available by law.

 

     27.  (New section)  Any person or organization who in good faith institutes, participates in or encourages a person to institute or participate in a civil action brought pursuant to this act, or who in good faith provides any information relied upon by any person or entity in instituting or participating in a civil action pursuant to this act, shall have immunity from any civil liability that might otherwise be incurred or imposed.  The person or organization shall have the same immunity from civil liability with respect to testimony given in any judicial proceeding conducted pursuant to this act.

 

     28.  (New section)  a.  The court, on the application of the tenant or other person subject to removal, may suspend the execution of a complete or partial eviction for a period of no more than 10 days in order to refer the person to a licensed substance abuse treatment program or facility for that period for a drug addiction assessment and treatment recommendation.  The assessment and recommendation shall  determine whether the person is a suitable candidate for a stay of execution of eviction or removal pursuant to subsection b. of this section, provided that the person asserts that he is drug dependent within the meaning of this act; is willing to participate in a licensed treatment and monitoring program recommended by the program or facility and approved by the court; and meets the requirements set forth in paragraphs (4), (5) and (6) of subsection b. of  this section; and further provided that the court is clearly convinced that the temporary suspension of execution of the eviction or removal will not endanger the safety of the community or otherwise unduly jeopardize the rights or interests of other tenants and residents of the leased residential premises. Pending the filing of an application for a stay of execution pursuant to subsection b. of this section, a temporary suspension shall automatically expire on the date fixed by the court or 10 days after the suspension is granted, whichever is earlier.  The eviction or removal shall be immediately enforced unless a stay is granted in accordance with the provisions of subsection b. of this section.

     b.  On the application of a tenant or other person subject to removal, the court may stay the execution of complete or partial eviction, for a period of time as provided in subsection f. of this section and during which the person is participating in a court-approved and licensed drug treatment program, provided that the tenant or other person subject to complete or partial eviction establishes by clear and convincing evidence all of the following:

     (1) The person is drug dependent, and the criminal activity that was the basis for the order of eviction or removal pursuant to subsection b. of section 8 of this act was committed in order to support the person's drug dependency;

     (2)  No evidence is currently proffered or has been presented that the person is an adult and, in the commission of such drug-related criminal activity, distributed a controlled dangerous substance or controlled substance analog to a person under 16 years of age;

     (3)  No evidence is currently proffered or has been presented that the person unlawfully used or possessed a firearm on the leased premises, or that the person used or threatened to use violence in committing any of the acts which are the basis for the order of eviction or removal;

     (4) The person has not previously undergone court-approved treatment pursuant to the provisions of this section;

     (5)  The person has agreed to participate in the course of drug treatment recommended by the treatment facility conducting the court-ordered drug addiction assessment and treatment recommendation;

     (6)  The stay of execution of the order of complete or partial eviction will not endanger the safety of the community or otherwise unduly jeopardize the rights or interests of other tenants and residents of the leased residential premises; and

     (7)  Admission to the recommended course of treatment will serve to benefit the person by addressing his drug dependency and will thereby remove the incentive for the person to engage in drug-related criminal activity.

     c.  The plaintiff in the civil action and the tenant organization for the premises, whether or not such organization joined in the civil action, shall be provided an opportunity to be heard with respect to an application to temporarily suspend execution of an eviction pursuant to subsection a. of this section or to stay execution of the order pursuant to subsection b. of this section, or to discharge the eviction or removal pursuant to subsection k. of this section, and shall also have the right to participate in any action upon a violation pursuant to subsection j. of this section.

     d.  If the court is satisfied that the grounds for a stay set forth in subsection b. of this section have been clearly and convincingly established, the court as a condition of the stay of execution of the eviction or removal shall order the person to participate in the recommended course of treatment, which program shall include periodic drug testing.  Such course of treatment shall take place in a program licensed by the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide substance abuse treatment.  The court shall impose reasonable terms and conditions of the person's participation in the court-approved treatment program as if the person were placed on probation following a conviction for a crime.  Such terms and conditions shall include a requirement that the person comply with all rules and regulations established by the treatment program.  The terms and conditions imposed by the court may also include but need not be limited to establishing a curfew or imposing restrictions on the person's associations and places where he may travel.  The court may at any time modify or impose additional terms or conditions, provided that the court, prior to its removal of any significant term or condition, provides notice to all persons entitled pursuant to subsection c. of this section to participate in the proceedings.  The person placed on probationary tenancy shall consent to original or amended terms and conditions as a condition of the stay of execution of the eviction or removal, and shall acknowledge in writing that he understands and accepts all terms and conditions.  In the event that the person refuses to accept or comply with any original or amended terms and conditions, the stay of execution shall be automatically rescinded and the eviction or removal shall be immediately enforced in accordance with the provisions of this act.

     e.  If the person maintains compliance with the terms and conditions of the court and with the requirements of the course of treatment and monitoring, the stay of execution of  eviction or removal shall remain in force for a period of six months.  The court, upon recommendation by the treatment program, may extend the initial period of the probationary tenancy for an additional six months.

     f.  A stay of eviction or removal pursuant to this section shall be contingent upon the person commencing his participation in the recommended course of treatment, or being placed on a certified waiting list until a position for the recommended course of treatment becomes available, within 10 days of the entry of the court's order granting the stay of eviction or removal.  If the person is placed on a certified list, he must submit to regular drug testing as ordered by the court and must also attend, with verification, no fewer than five 12-step recovery meetings per week, until the course of treatment can begin, unless the person demonstrates bona fide religious objections to attendance.  If the person for any reason fails to comply with the conditions of this subsection within 10 days of entry of the court's order, the stay shall be automatically rescinded unless the court determines that there are extraordinary and compelling reasons to reinstate the stay pending the person's participation in the recommended course of treatment, by a date certain to be fixed by the court.

     g.  The treatment program administrator shall, as a condition of the stay of the eviction or removal, agree in writing to report periodically to the court as to the person's progress and compliance with court-imposed terms and conditions.  The treatment program administrator shall further agree to promptly report any significant failure to comply with the requirements of the course of treatment.  The treatment program administrator also shall agree immediately to advise the court in the event that the person for any reason terminates his participation in the course of treatment.  The person and, where necessary, the person's parent or legal guardian, shall, as a condition of the stay, sign a consent form necessary to release information to the court pursuant to this section, with respect to his participation in the course of treatment.

     h.  The court may assign the county probation office and, in the case of a juvenile, the child welfare authorities, the responsibility to assist in monitoring and supervising the person's participation in the recommended course of treatment and his compliance with all court-imposed terms and conditions of the probationary tenancy.  The court may also assign the county probation office the responsibility to administer the periodic drug testing, which office shall immediately report any significant violation of the court-imposed terms and conditions, in accordance with the provisions of subsection g. of this section.

     i.  Upon a first significant violation of any court-ordered term or condition of the probationary tenancy, the court may and upon recommendation of the treatment program or upon subsequent violation, shall, in the absence of extraordinary and compelling reasons, rescind the stay of eviction or removal, in which event the order shall be immediately enforced.  In making its determination whether to rescind the stay after a first significant violation, the court shall consider the nature and seriousness of the infraction in relation to the person's progress in the course of treatment, and shall also consider the recommendations of the treatment program.  If the treatment program determines to discontinue the person's course of treatment, the court shall revoke the probationary tenancy and rescind the stay of eviction or removal, unless the treatment program recommends that another treatment program be engaged to provide the course of treatment.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, where the court finds reasonable grounds to believe that the person, during the term of the probationary tenancy, has been involved in drug-related criminal activity, whether or not the activity occurred on the leased residential premises, the court shall immediately rescind the stay of eviction or removal, in which event the order shall be immediately enforced.

     j.  An action for a violation of any term or condition of the probationary tenancy may be brought by the plaintiff in the eviction action, any person or entity which could have initiated the eviction action pursuant to this act, by the treatment program administrator, any agency assigned by the court to assist in monitoring or supervising the probationary tenancy, or by the court on its own motion. Such action shall be summary in nature and shall be heard and decided within five days of the notice to the court of the violation.

     k.  If after the expiration of the term of probationary tenancy, the court determines that the person has satisfactorily complied with the terms and conditions of the recommended course of treatment, and that the person no longer poses a risk to the other residents and tenants of the leased residential premises, the court shall discharge the  eviction or removal and shall dismiss the action brought pursuant to this act.  Nothing in this section shall be construed in any way to prevent the initiation at any time of a new action pursuant to this act.

 

     29.  (New section)  a.  Prior to the removal of any person pursuant to this act, the court shall cause to be provided to that person outreach information and referral materials on how to obtain drug treatment.

     b.  No less than 10 days prior to the removal of any person pursuant to this act, the court shall cause notice of the removal to be provided to the county alcoholism and drug abuse coordinator, the local council on alcoholism and drug abuse, the local child welfare agency if applicable, and other appropriate social service agencies.

     c.  The Department of Health and Senior Services shall prepare the outreach information and referral materials and shall disseminate the information and materials to all courts having jurisdiction to issue orders pursuant to this act.

     d.  Licensed treatment programs may apply to the Department of Health and Senior Services for compensation for treatment services

provided to persons removed pursuant to this act.  The department shall adopt regulations as it deems appropriate governing the use of treatment programs and the manner of allocating compensation to the programs.  The compensation shall be allocated from the "Drug Enforcement and Demand Reduction Fund" pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-15.

 

     30.  (New section)  Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a landlord or owner shall not bear any responsibility or liability for relocating any person who has been evicted, removed or barred pursuant to this act.

 

     31.  (New section)  If any one or more sections, clauses, sentences or parts of this act shall for any reason be adjudged unconstitutional, the judgment shall not affect the remaining provisions but shall be confined to the specific provisions held to be unconstitutional.

 

     32.  (New section)  The provisions of this act shall be liberally construed to effectuate the remedial purposes, objectives and policies set forth in sections 2 and 3 of this act.

 

     33.  N.J.S.2A:18-53 is amended to read as follows:

     2A:18-53.  Except for residential lessees and tenants included in section 2 of this act, any lessee or tenant at will or at sufferance, or for a part of a year, or for one or more years, of any houses, buildings, lands or tenements, and the assigns, undertenants or legal representatives of such tenant or lessee, may be removed from such premises by the Superior Court, Law Division, Special Civil Part in an action in the following cases:

     a.  Where such person holds over and continues in possession of all or any part of the demised premises after the expiration of his term, and after demand made and written notice given by the landlord or his agent, for delivery of possession thereof.  The notice shall be served either personally upon the tenant or such person in possession by giving him a copy thereof or by leaving a copy of the same at his usual place of abode with a member of his family above the age of 14 years.

     b.  Where such person shall hold over after a default in the payment of rent, pursuant to the agreement under which the premises are held.

     c.  Where such person (1) shall be so disorderly as to destroy the peace and quiet of the landlord or the other tenants or occupants living in said house or the neighborhood, or (2) shall willfully destroy, damage or injure the premises, or (3) shall constantly violate the landlord's rules and regulations governing said premises, provided, such rules have been accepted in writing by the tenant or are made a part of the lease; or (4) shall commit any breach or violation of any of the covenants or agreements in the nature thereof contained in the lease for the premises where a right of re-entry is reserved in the lease for a violation of such covenants or agreements, and shall hold over and continue in possession of the demised premises or any part thereof, after the landlord or his agent for that purpose has caused a written notice of the termination of said tenancy to be served upon said tenant, and a demand that said tenant remove from said premises within three days from the service of such notice.  The notice shall specify the cause of the termination of the tenancy, and shall be served either personally upon the tenant or such person in possession by giving him a copy thereof, or by leaving a copy thereof at his usual place of abode with some member of his family above the age of 14 years.  No notice to vacate the premises shall be required for persons subject to the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

(cf:  P.L.1991, c.91, s.64)

 

     34.  Section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1) is amended to read as follows:

     2.  No lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant may be removed by the Superior Court from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes, other than (1) owner-occupied premises with not more than two rental units or a hotel, motel or other guest house or part thereof rented to a transient guest or seasonal tenant; (2) a dwelling unit which is held in trust on behalf of a member of the immediate family of the person or persons establishing the trust, provided that the member of the immediate family on whose behalf the trust is established permanently occupies the unit; and (3) a dwelling unit which is permanently occupied by a member of the immediate family of the owner of that unit, provided, however, that exception (2) or (3) shall apply only in cases in which the member of the immediate family has a developmental disability, except upon establishment of one of the following grounds as good cause:

     a.  The person fails to pay rent due and owing under the lease whether the same be oral or written; provided that, for the purposes of this section, any portion of rent unpaid by a tenant to a landlord but utilized by the tenant to continue utility service to the rental premises after receiving notice from an electric, gas, water or sewer public utility that such service was in danger of discontinuance based on nonpayment by the landlord, shall not be deemed to be unpaid rent.

     b.  The person has continued to be, after written notice to cease, so disorderly as to destroy the peace and quiet of the occupants or other tenants living in said house or neighborhood.

     c.  The person has willfully or by reason of gross negligence caused or allowed destruction, damage or injury to the premises.

     d.  The person has continued, after written notice to cease, to substantially violate or breach any of the landlord's rules and regulations governing said premises, provided such rules and regulations are reasonable and have been accepted in writing by the tenant or made a part of the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     e.  (1) The person has continued, after written notice to cease, to substantially violate or breach any of the covenants or agreements contained in the lease for the premises where a right of reentry is reserved to the landlord in the lease for a violation of such covenant or agreement, provided that such covenant or agreement is reasonable and was contained in the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     (2)  In public housing under the control of a public housing authority or redevelopment agency, the person has substantially violated or breached any of the covenants or agreements contained in the lease for the premises pertaining to illegal uses of controlled dangerous substances, or other illegal activities, whether or not a right of reentry is reserved to the landlord in the lease for a violation of such covenant or agreement, provided that such covenant or agreement conforms to federal guidelines regarding such lease provisions and was contained in the lease at the beginning of the lease term.

     f.  The person has failed to pay rent after a valid notice to quit and notice of increase of said rent, provided the increase in rent is not unconscionable and complies with any and all other laws or municipal ordinances governing rent increases.

     g.  The landlord or owner (1) seeks to permanently board up or demolish the premises because he has been cited by local or State housing inspectors for substantial violations affecting the health and safety of tenants and it is economically unfeasible for the owner to eliminate the violations; (2) seeks to comply with local or State housing inspectors who have cited him for substantial violations affecting the health and safety of tenants and it is unfeasible to so comply without removing the tenant; simultaneously with service of notice of eviction pursuant to this clause, the landlord shall notify the Department of Community Affairs of the intention to institute proceedings and shall provide the department with such other information as it may require pursuant to rules and regulations.  The department shall inform all parties and the court of its view with respect to the feasibility of compliance without removal of the tenant and may in its discretion appear and present evidence; (3) seeks to correct an illegal occupancy because he has been cited by local or State housing inspectors or zoning officers and it is unfeasible to correct such illegal occupancy without removing the tenant; or (4) is a governmental agency which seeks to permanently retire the premises from the rental market pursuant to a redevelopment or land clearance plan in a blighted area. In those cases where the tenant is being removed for any reason specified in this subsection, no warrant for possession shall be issued until P.L.1967, c.79 (C.52:31B-1 et seq.) and P.L.1971, c.362 (C.20:4-1 et seq.) have been complied with.

     h.  The owner seeks to retire permanently the residential building or the mobile home park from residential use or use as a mobile home park, provided this subsection shall not apply to circumstances covered under subsection g. of this section.

     i.  The landlord or owner proposes, at the termination of a lease, reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease, including specifically any change in the term thereof, which the tenant, after written notice, refuses to accept; provided that in cases where a tenant has received a notice of termination pursuant to subsection g. of section 3 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.2), or has a protected tenancy status pursuant to section 9 of the "Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act," P.L.1981, c.226 (C.2A:18-61.30), or pursuant to the "Tenant Protection Act of 1992," P.L.1991, c.509 (C.2A:18-61.40 et al.), the landlord or owner shall have the burden of proving that any change in the terms and conditions of the lease, rental or regulations both is reasonable and does not substantially reduce the rights and privileges to which the tenant was entitled prior to the conversion.

     j.  The person, after written notice to cease, has habitually and without legal justification failed to pay rent which is due and owing.

     k.  The landlord or owner of the building or mobile home park is converting from the rental market to a condominium, cooperative or fee simple ownership of two or more dwelling units or park sites, except as hereinafter provided in subsection l. of this section.  Where the tenant is being removed pursuant to this subsection, no warrant for possession shall be issued until this act has been complied with.  No action for possession shall be brought pursuant to this subsection against a senior citizen tenant or disabled tenant with protected tenancy status pursuant to the "Senior Citizens and Disabled Protected Tenancy Act," P.L.1981, c.226 (C.2A:18-61.22 et al.), or against a qualified tenant under the "Tenant Protection Act of 1992," P.L.1991, c.509 (C.2A:18-61.40 et al.), as long as the agency has not terminated the protected tenancy status or the protected tenancy period has not expired.

     l.  (1)  The owner of a building or mobile home park, which is constructed as or being converted to a condominium, cooperative or fee simple ownership, seeks to evict a tenant or sublessee whose initial tenancy began after the master deed, agreement establishing the cooperative or subdivision plat was recorded, because the owner has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.  However, no action shall be brought against a tenant under paragraph (1) of this subsection unless the tenant was given a statement in accordance with section 6 of P.L.1975, c.311 (C.2A:18-61.9);

     (2)  The owner of three or less condominium or cooperative units seeks to evict a tenant whose initial tenancy began by rental from an owner of three or less units after the master deed or agreement establishing the cooperative was recorded, because the owner seeks to personally occupy the unit, or has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing;

     (3)  The owner of a building of three residential units or less seeks to personally occupy a unit, or has contracted to sell the residential unit to a buyer who wishes to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.

     m.  The landlord or owner conditioned the tenancy upon and in consideration for the tenant's employment by the landlord or owner as superintendent, janitor or in some other capacity and such employment is being terminated.

     n.  [The] Subject to the provisions of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under the "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987," N.J.S.2C:35-1 et al. involving the use, possession, manufacture, dispensing or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, controlled dangerous substance analog or drug paraphernalia within the meaning of that act within or upon the leased premises or the building or complex of buildings and land appurtenant thereto, or the mobile home park, in which those premises are located, and has not in connection with his sentence for that offense either (1) successfully completed or (2) been admitted to and continued upon probation while completing, a drug rehabilitation program pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-14; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently, except that this subsection shall not apply to a person harboring or permitting a juvenile to occupy the premises if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent upon the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute the offense of use or possession under the said act. No action for removal may be brought pursuant to this subsection more than two years after the date of the adjudication or conviction or more than two years after the person's release from incarceration whichever is the later.

     o.  The person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under N.J.S.2C:12-1 or N.J.S.2C:12-3 involving assault, or terroristic threats against the landlord, a member of the landlord's family or an employee of the landlord; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently. No action for removal may be brought pursuant to this subsection more than two years after the adjudication or conviction or more than two years after the person's release from incarceration whichever is the later.

     p.  [The] Subject to the provisions of P.L.    , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), the person has been found, by a preponderance of the evidence, liable in a civil action for removal commenced under this act for an offense under N.J.S.2C:20-1 et al. involving theft of property located on the leased premises from the landlord, the leased premises or other tenants residing in the leased premises, or N.J.S.2C:12-1 or N.J.S.2C:12-3 involving assault or terroristic threats against the landlord, a member of the landlord's family or an employee of the landlord, or under the "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987," N.J.S.2C:35-1 et al., involving the use, possession, manufacture, dispensing or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, controlled dangerous substance analog or drug paraphernalia within the meaning of that act within or upon the leased premises or the building or complex of buildings and land appurtenant thereto, or the mobile home park, in which those premises are located, and has not in connection with his sentence for that offense either (1) successfully completed or (2) been admitted to and continued upon probation while completing a drug rehabilitation program pursuant to N.J.S.2C:35-14; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors or harbored therein a person who committed such an offense, or otherwise permits or permitted such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently, except that this subsection shall not apply to a person who harbors or permits a juvenile to occupy the premises if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent upon the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute the offense of use or possession under the said "Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987."

     q.  The person has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to, or if a juvenile, has been adjudicated delinquent on the basis of an act which if committed by an adult would constitute an offense under N.J.S.2C:20-1 et al. involving theft of property from the  landlord, the leased premises or other tenants residing in the same building or complex; or, being the tenant or lessee of such leased premises, knowingly harbors therein a person who has been so convicted or has so pleaded, or otherwise permits such a person to occupy those premises for residential purposes, whether continuously or intermittently.

     For purposes of this section, (1) "developmental disability" means any disability which is defined as such pursuant to section 3 of P.L.1977, c.82 (C.30:6D-3); (2) "member of the immediate family" means a person's spouse, parent, child or sibling, or a spouse, parent, child or sibling of any of them; and (3) "permanently" occupies or occupied means that the occupant maintains no other domicile at which the occupant votes, pays rent or property taxes or at which rent or property taxes are paid on the occupant's behalf.

(cf:  P.L.2000, c.113, s.3)

 

     35.  This act shall take effect on the first day of the seventh month after enactment.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill, known as the "Residential Drug Protection Act," establishes a civil action to be brought in Superior Court to evict or remove tenants and others who engage in drug-related criminal activity on or near leased residential premises.  The following parties are to commence such an action:  the owner or landlord of the premises; tenant organizations; county or municipal prosecutors; county or municipal attorneys; and the State Attorney General.  The suit may be brought against tenants, adult or minor members of the tenant's household, guests or residents.

     The bill requires courts to order the immediate removal from the premises and bar the return of a member of the tenant's household or guest or resident if the person has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises.  If the person who has engaged in the drug-related criminal activity is not subject to the court's jurisdiction, the tenant will be issued an order to remove the person.  Compliance with the order is made a condition of the tenancy.

     The bill requires the court to evict a tenant if it finds that:  1) drug-related criminal activity has occurred on the premises leased by the tenant; 2) the premises were used to further drug-related criminal activity; 3) the tenant, a member of the household or a guest engaged  in drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises; 4) the tenant allows a person removed and barred from the premises under the act to return; or 5) the tenant failed to notify law enforcement or public housing authorities that a person removed and barred from the premises has returned.  An affirmative defense to the tenant's "complete eviction" can be established if the tenant: did not know that the drug-related activity occurred; did what could be reasonably expected to prevent drug-related activity; and promptly reported the activity.  The court also has the discretion to withhold an order of complete eviction of a tenant if it is clearly convinced that such an order would constitute a serious injustice, the prevention of which overrides the need to protect other tenants and residents of the premises.

     Under the preceding exceptions to complete eviction, the court is required to order a "partial eviction" by ordering the removal and barring the return of any person who has engaged in drug-related criminal activity on or near the premises.  The tenant is prohibited from permitting or inviting the return of the person to the premises. A tenant's failure to acknowledge the partial eviction in writing or to comply with the eviction will result in the tenant's complete eviction.

     Current law is limited to permitting courts, under section 2 of P.L.1974, c.49 (C.2A:18-61.1), to order the eviction of a tenant or lessee from premises leased for residential purposes if certain grounds are established.  For example, a court can remove a tenant who: fails to pay rent; destroys the peace and quiet of other tenants or occupants; destroys, damages or injures the premises; or breaches rules and regulations in the lease.  A court also may remove tenants or lessees who have been convicted of, or found civilly liable for, an offense involving the use, possession, manufacture, dispensing or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance, but have not successfully completed or entered a drug rehabilitation program required as part of their sentence or who have knowingly harbored such a person.