After receiving complaints from tenants who received letters telling them that they had to vacate foreclosed premises, New Jersey Public Advocate Ronald Chen wrote to three real estate agencies and their attorneys in December 2008 to inform them that it is illegal to evict any tenant in New Jersey just because the landlord owns a dwelling with a mortgage that is being foreclosed, based on the NJ Supreme Court ruling in Chase Manhattan v. Josephson, 135 NJ 209 (1994),  a 1994 case interpreting New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act.

In addition, lawyers, realtors, lenders and others who try to evict tenants without a court order face a disorderly persons charge under a 2006 law, and if they repeat the conduct within five years, they can be charged with a fourth degree crime. However, charges can be brought only if a person acts after being warned of the illegality by a law enforcement or other public official. “Lawyers have an obligation to tell people they do not have to get out”, Chen said.

The realtors contacted by Chen were with Burgdorff ERA in Parsippany, Weichert Realtors in Secaucus and Keystone Asset Management in Lansdale, PA. According to the Department of banking and Insurance, the agency which oversees realtors in New Jersey, realtors who violate the law can be fined up to $10,000 and lose their licenses for illegal evictions.

Source: New Jersey Law Journal, December 29, 2008