I often handle cases involving possession of real property. In a standard case, a property owner contacts me to remove a tenant who has failed to pay rent or otherwise breached a lease. In most cases, this is straightforward: I draft and file the appropriate complaint for eviction in District Court or Municipal Court (in Pennsylvania) or the Special Civil Part (in New Jersey). But once in a while, what the owner thought was a simple landlord-tenant case turns out to be something more complicated. Here’s an overview of the difference between eviction and ejectment -- the two basic types of disputes over possession of real property.
In order to proceed in landlord-tenant court, there must be a landlord-tenant relationship between the parties. In most cases, this relationship is memorialized by a written lease. But what if there’s no written lease? The parties still may be landlord and tenant. For example, in a situation with no written lease, look to see if periodic rent has been agreed upon and paid. How much is the rent? Is it payable monthly, weekly, yearly, or at some other regular interval? Has the tenant ever paid it? Are there other indicia of a landlord-tenant relationship?
If rent has not been reserved and paid, or if the parties cannot agree on this basic fact, it’s possible the parties are not landlord and tenant, and therefore the case cannot be heard in landlord-tenant court. What then?
The downside for an ejectment plaintiff is that the matter is heard in the regular trial court: the Court of Common Pleas in Pennsylvania or the Superior Court, Law Division in New Jersey. This requires more time and effort and, unlike filing in the user-friendly landlord-tenant courts, it often requires the assistance of a qualified and experienced attorney.
Do you have questions about the difference between eviction and ejectment in Pennsylvania or New Jersey? Call for an appointment so we can discuss the facts of your individual case.
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William R. McLaughlin, Esq.