Tenants can assert defenses to eviction in New Jersey including defective notice, waivers due to collecting rent or passing of time, uninhabitable condition, bankruptcy, lack of registration or certificate of occupancy.
New Jersey is a tenant-friendly state.
Not only are landlords normally required to have a “good cause” to evict (creating lease for life possibilities), evictions can be dismissed where a tenant proves a defense such as improper notice or waiver by acceptance a portion of rent.
Read on to learn about the most common eviction defenses in New Jersey.
Burden to Prove Defenses
Tenants bear the burden of proof in asserting defenses to eviction.
Once the landlord proves the grounds for eviction, the tenant then has the opportunity to establish defenses. Tenants bear the burden of proof in asserting defenses to eviction.
The defense must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, which means it is more likely than not (greater than 50%). There is no right to a jury trial in in landlord-tenant court.
Tenants are not permitted to rely on hearsay (an out-of-court verbal or written statement) unless an exception applies.
The business records exception is common hearsay exception. See N.J.R.E. 803(c)(6). To admit evidence through the business records exception, a party must establish the record was:
- Made in the regular course of business;
- Prepared within a short time of the events described;
- Written by a personal with actual knowledge;
- Method of creating the document is trustworthy method.
In Smith v. Zsirai, No. A-0562-15T3 (N.J. Super. Feb. 3, 2017), a landlord was awarded a $13,366.03 judgment against the tenant for unpaid rent and property damage. The landlord was permitted to enter into evidence a written ledger of rental charges and payments as a business record.
Calling Adverse Witnesses
Parties in an eviction lawsuit cannot be forced to testify in New Jersey.
The law does not permit an adverse party to be forced to testify in cases to “enforce a forfeiture”. Courts interpret “enforce a forfeiture” to include evictions.
In all civil actions in any court of record a party shall be sworn and shall give evidence therein when called by the adverse party, but no party thereto shall be compelled to be sworn or give evidence in any action brought to recover a penalty or to enforce a forfeiture.
I hold that the eviction of a defendant is a type of forfeiture . . . Given the acute housing shortage in this state, the total effect of forfeiture on the tenant can be comparable in severity to the effect of forfeiture on a purchaser of land. The rule of construction favoring the tenant is particularly strong when resolution of ambiguous language against him will result in a forfeiture of his estate.
Written leases are regularly admitted into evidence in eviction cases.
Leases are contracts, and court’s resolve legal disputes about the meaning of a lease term using contract interpretation law. Contract interpretation in New Jersey begins with the written words themselves.
Under New Jersey law a lease is like any other written contract. Courts should read contracts as a whole in a fair and common sense manner, and enforce them based on the intent of the parties, the express terms of the contract, surrounding circumstances and the underlying purpose of the contract. The language of the contract, by itself, must determine the agreement’s force and effect if it is plain and capable of legal construction.
126 S. St. Owner, LLC v. Suzi’s Skin & Nail Care Studio, Inc., No. A-5148-16T3 (N.J. Super. Jan. 18, 2019).
Although interpretation begins with the contract itself, courts are allowed to consider evidence beyond the words the contract (called extrinsic evidence) to interpret the lease:
Our Supreme Court has adopted an expansive view of the parol evidence rule that permits consideration of all relevant evidence that will assist in determining the intent and meaning of the contract . . . all relevant evidence pointing to meaning is admissible because experience teaches that language is so poor an instrument for communication or expression of intent that ordinarily all surrounding circumstances and conditions must be examined before there is any trustworthy assurance of derivation of contractual intent, even by reasonable judges of ordinary intelligence, from any given set of words which the parties have committed to paper as their contract.
126 S. St. Owner, LLC v. Suzi’s Skin & Nail Care Studio, Inc., No. A-5148-16T3 (N.J. Super. Jan. 18, 2019), citing Garden State Plaza Corp v. S.S. Kresge Co., 78 N.J. 485 (App. Div. 1963).
The case of 126 S. St. Owner, LLC v. Suzi’s Skin & Nail Care Studio, Inc., No. A-5148-16T3 (N.J. Super. Jan. 18, 2019) interpreted a commercial lease for 126 South Street in Morristown using the extrinsic evidence of a Letter of Understanding and witness testimony.
Failure to comply with New Jersey’s notice rules can result in an eviction case being dismissed.
Courts have repeatedly made clear must strictly comply with notice laws, particularly in evictions filed under the Anti-Eviction Act:
All notices to quit must strictly comply with the statutory provisions of the Anti-Eviction Act. Even substantial compliance, without prejudice to defendants and without offense to public policy, does not render the notice to quit effective.
Aspep Corp. v. Giuca, 634 A.2d 582 (N.J. Super. 1993).
Strict compliance requires adherence to the Act’s notice provisions . . . A landlord’s failure to comply with the notice requirements negates the salutary purpose of the Act, precluding the court’s jurisdiction and entry of judgment of possession in favor of the landlord.
Sandhu v. Jordan, No. A-1714-14T4 (N.J. Super. July 18, 2016).
Strict compliance requires adherence to the Act’s notice provisions . . . A landlord’s failure to comply with the notice requirements negates the salutary purpose of the Act, precluding the court’s jurisdiction and entry of judgment of possession in favor of the landlord. Sandhu v. Jordan, No. A-1714-14T4 (N.J. Super. July 18, 2016).
Indeed, landlords must prove compliance with notice requirements as part of their eviction case even if tenant don’t raise the issue.
In a state which requires landlords to “turn square corners”, plaintiff would prefer to cut corners. Rather, more in keeping with the legislative intent of the Anti-Eviction Act, this court holds that the landlord is charged with knowledge of the regulations and an affirmative duty to prove compliance therewith before being entitled to a judgment of possession. Otherwise, the regulations are worthless.
N.C. Housing Assoc. v. Cooper, 281 N.J. Super. 317 (N.J. Super. 1995)
Notices to Cease & Quit
There are two common notices that a landlord must submit to tenants in an eviction action: notice to cease and notice to quit.
Notices to cease are required for evictions due to disorderly conduct, breaking rules and regulations, breaking the lease, or habitual late rent. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1. Notices to cease do not need formal legal service and the law “requires no more than the document be sent or delivered in a manner designed to achieve notice.” Ivy Hill Park v. Abutidze, 852 A. 2d 217 (N.J. Super. 2004).
Notices to quit (also referred to as notices to vacate) apply to every ground for eviction besides non-payment of rent. The law includes time-frames landlords must wait before filing an eviction after the notice to quit:
- 3-Days Notices to Quit: disorderly conduct, damages and destruction to the property
- One Month’s Notice: violation of landlords rules and regulation, substantial violation of the ease terms, habitual failure to pay rent, refusal to accept reasonable lease changes at the conclusion of the lease
- Two Month’s Notice: Conversion to condominium, cooperative, park sites, or fee simple ownership, landlord seeking to personally occupy a unit or selling to a buyer with a contract contingent upon the unit being vacant
- Three Month’s Notice: Landlord compliance with state housing authorities on the following: board up or demolish the premises, resolve substantial violations of safety that are unfeasible to correct without removing the tenant, correcting an illegal occupancy that is unfeasible to correct without removing the tenant, and government agency seeks to permanently require the premises from the rental market
- 18 Month’s Notice: Permanent retirement of the rental premises
- Three Years’ Notice: 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.
- Public Housing: For an action alleging substantial breach of contract in public housing, the notice period shall be in accordance with federal regulations to public housing leases.
Consider Sandhu v. Jordan, No. A-1714-14T4 (N.J. Super. July 18, 2016). The landlord sought to evict for habitually late payments, but the case was dismissed due to faulty notices: “Plaintiff’s notice to cease was woefully insufficient and contradictory, and he did not serve a notice to quit.”
Waiver is the intentional relinquishment of a known right.
This occurs where a party knows of right, and then abandons it either by design or indifference. The intent to waive need not be stated expressly, provided the circumstances clearly show that the party knew of the right and then abandoned it.
Accepting rent sometimes operates as a waiver of breach of a lease. Similarly, ignoring a tenant’s violation of a rule can waive the right to evict for that violation.
For example, landlords have waived rights to evict:
- A landlord waives its right to evict for violating a “no pets” policy where the landlord was aware dogs resided openly in an apartment for many years (Bartale, Inc. v. Cantos, No. A-3056-11T2 (N.J. Super. Feb. 27, 2013));
- Renewing and accepting rent under a new lease waived the right to evict based on non-payment of rent under the expired lease (Montgomery Gateway v. Herrera, 261 N.J. Super. 235 (N.J. Super. 1992));
- Landlord lost the right to evict upon a conversion of the rental unit by accepting rent for two years (Fairken Associates v. Hutchin, 223 N.J. Super. 274 (N.J. Super. 1987)
However, acceptance of rent alone would not necessarily operate as a waiver, it is no more than evidence:
Acceptance of rent after a notice changing tenancy or after a notice to quit does not necessarily operate to waive the notice. While the unconditional acceptance by a landlord of moneys as rent, which rent as accrued after the time the tenant should have surrendered possession, will constitute strong evidence of the landlord’s waiver of the notice to quit, waiver always rests on intent, and is ever a question of fact.
Jasontown Apartments v. Lynch, 155 N.J. Super. 254 (N.J. Super. 1978).
The following questions bear on whether a landlord “waives” the right to evict based on accepting rent:
- Did the landlord inform the tenant that acceptance of rent was not a waiver?
- Did the lease contain any non-waiver clauses?
- How long did the landlord accept rent for after serving the notice to vacate?
- How long had the tenant’s conduct at issue gone on for?
- Was a lease renewed while the grounds for eviction were continuing?
Leases often explicitly contain a “non-waiver” provision that payment to the landlord for less than the full amount due shall not be considered settlement or satisfaction of the full amount due. New Jersey courts found “non-waiver” provisions to be effective. See Hilal v. Han, No. A-6004-17T2 (N.J. Super. Aug. 2, 2019) (landlord did not waive the right to overdue rent or late fees where lease contained a non-waiver clause).
The defense of equitable estoppel applies if the landlord induces the tenants to act in such a way that creates the grounds for an eviction or suffer financial harm.
In order to establish a claim of equitable estoppel, the claiming party must show that the alleged conduct was done, or representation was made, intentionally or under such circumstances that it was both natural and probable that it would induce action. Further, the conduct must be relied on, and the relying party must act as to change his or her position to his or her detriment.
Miller v. Miller, 97 N.J. 154 (1984)
The Appellate Division applied equitable estoppel to prevent an eviction in Davin v. Daham, 329 N.J. Super. 54 (N.J. Super. 2000).
In Davin, commercial premises in Nutley were leased to operators of a bagel shop who invested $125,000 on renovations. The court found that new owners who took over after foreclosure could be equitably estopped for failing to inform the bagel shop of their intent to evict the business.
New owners can also be estopped from denying the rights of a tenant if the new owner allowed the tenant to remain for a long period without asking about the agreements with the prior landlord. Carteret Properties v. Variety Donuts, 228 A.2d 675 (N.J. 1967).
The defense of promissory estoppel can prevent an eviction where a landlord makes a promise to a tenant and the tenant relies on that promise.
Tenants must prove four elements to prove promissory estoppel:
- Clear and definite promise;
- With the expectation that the promisee will rely thereon;
- Promisee must in fact reasonably rely on the promise;
- Detriment of a definite and substantial nature must be incurred in reliance on the promise.
Promissory estoppel stopped an eviction based on violating a no-pet provision where the landlord previously gave oral permission to keep a dog. Royal Associates v. Concannon, 490 A.2d 357 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1985).
The right to evict a tenant can be lost if there is an unreasonable delay in filing the lawsuit. This eviction defense is called laches.
The following “factors” are considered in whether the laches defense should apply:
- Length of the delay;
- Reasons for the delay;
- Changing conditions of either or both parties during the delay, including whether a party was prejudiced due to the delay;
- Whether it is “inequitable” to allow the claim to proceed.
The Appellate Division explained after rejecting a tenant’s effort to overturn an eviction judgment entered against him three years ago:
Laches, in a general sense, is the neglect, for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, under circumstances permitting diligence, to do what in law should have been done. It involves more than mere delay, mere lapse of time. There must be delay for a length of time which, unexplained and unexcused, is unreasonable under the circumstances and has been prejudicial to the other party. Factors considered in determining whether to apply laches include the length of delay, reasons for delay, and changing conditions of either or both parties during the delay. The primary factor to consider when deciding whether to apply laches is whether there has been a general change in condition during the passage of time that has made it inequitable to allow the claim to proceed.
Ultimate Holding, LLC v. Hernandez, No. A-4982-17T3 (N.J. Super. June 13, 2019)
In eviction cases, courts consider whether a delay in filing an eviction caused a “greater detriment” to the tenant than had the landlord filed for eviction earlier. See Fairken Associates v. Hutchin, 223 N.J. Super. 274 (N.J. Super. 1987).
Courts tend to interpret and apply the law in ways that do not force people to forfeit their property. Leases, of course, are a form of property.
The forfeiture doctrine has stopped evictions after a court rejected a tenant’s good faith defense. Given that the tenant just learned its argument to prevent eviction will not work, a brief period of time is allowed to cure the reason for eviction.
New Jersey courts explained:
We have recently said that, at least where there exists a bona fide dispute, tenants have a legal right to contest the reasonableness of the lease terms such that immediate removal despite a cure may not be warranted.
We agree that an opportunity to sign the lease should have been afforded upon a finding that failure to sign warranted an eviction . . . Although a proposed lease change was reasonable, eviction should be delayed for a period of time after judgement, in part to reconsider the landlord’s offer of the lease containing the disputed term . . . The defense of summary dispossess need not put tenants at significant risk of lease forfeiture if their good faith defenses do not prevail.
Several examples include:
- Village Bridge Apartments v. Mammucari, 570 A.2d 1301 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1990). Tenant was entitled to an opportunity to sign a new lease, after the court rejected tenant’s argument that the new lease was unreasonable.
- Edgemere at Somerset v. Johnson, 143 N.J.Super. 222, 362 A.2d 1250 (Dist.Ct.1976). Tenants were given 30 days after the judgment of eviction to pay the disputed rent after the court found the rent increases at issue were allowable.
- Jersey City Management v. Garcia, 729 A.2d 521, 321 NJ Super. 543 (N.J. Super. 1999). Tenant had a good faith – but unsuccessful – defense to keep her pets. The eviction judg was vacated as the tenant complied with removing the pet as soon as the court ruled against her defense.
Breach of the Implied Covenant of Habitability: The Marini Doctrine
Landlords may not be able to evict tenants for non-payment of rent if the property was kept in poor condition.
Where the property was not livable, tenants can assert the “Marini defense” that rent was properly withheld to compensate for unlivable conditions.
Law of Habitability
Landlords in every lease are responsible to keep property in livable condition. This responsibility is called the implied warranty of habitability:
It is a covenant that at the inception of the lease, there are no latent defects in facilities vital to the use of the premises for residential purposes because of faulty original construction or deterioration from age or normal usage. And further it is a covenant that these facilities will remain in usable condition during the entire term of the lease. In performance of this covenant the landlord is required to maintain those facilities in a condition which renders the property livable.
Violating the Habitability Requirement
What happens when a landlord allows the property to become unlivable?
Tenants have three remedies:
- Treat the breach as a “constructive eviction” and vacate the premise without owing any more rent;
- Give notice to the landlord of the defect, and if the landlord fails to remedy the condition, the tenant may do so, deducting the reasonable cost of repair from his rent;
- In an action by a landlord for unpaid rent, a tenant may plead, by way of defense and set off, a breach by the landlord of his continuing obligation to maintain an adequate standard of habitability.Tenants may sue the landlord for recovery of the security deposit, and may only be responsible for rent based on the condition of the property.
If a tenant alleges that a landlord has violated this covenant, the tenant may initiate an action against the landlord to recover either part or all of a deposit paid. If the tenant proves that the landlord did breach the covenant, the tenant will be charged only with the reasonable rental value of the property in its imperfect condition during the period of occupancy as long as the tenant gave the landlord positive and seasonable notice of the alleged defect and allowed the landlord a reasonable period of time to effect the repair or replacement.
Tenants can also sue the landlord to recover a security deposit or other money expended due to the poor condition. Tenant could file a claim for personal injury if harm was suffered. This additional claims – however – must proceed outside of landlord-tenant court.
Tenants asserting “constructive eviction” have two options: (1) terminate the lease and attempt to recover damages caused by the landlord’s breach; or (2) continue the lease and recover rent abatements and damages. However, should the tenant decide to remain, the tenant will still be responsible for some amount of rent.
What Does Habitability Mean?
Habitability means the property is suitable for living purposes.
Not every defect implies the property is unlivable. The defect “must be such as truly to render the premises uninhabitable in the eyes of a reasonable person.” Linwood Ave. Dev., LLC v. Advanced Prof’l Plumbing, No. A-5080-15T4 (N.J. Super. Apr. 25, 2019).
For example, there must be sufficient heat, ventilation, light, plumbing, sanitation, security and maintenance.
The following questions are relevant to whether the landlord breached the implied warranty of habitability:
- Has there been a violation of any applicable housing code or building or sanitary regulations?
- Is the nature of the deficiency or defect such as to affect a vital facility?
- What is its potential or actual effect upon safety and sanitation?
- For what length of time has it persisted?
- What is the age of the structure?
- What is the amount of the rent?
- Can the tenant be said to have waived the defect or be estopped to complain?
- Was the tenant in any way responsible for the defective condition?
Claims by a tenant of personal injury or expenses due to the breach of habitability cannot be heard in landlord-tenant court as the sole remedy is removal. Affirmative claims would need to be filed either in Small Claims, Special Civil, or Law Division as appropriate.
Accord and Satisfaction
Landlords sometimes forgive overdue rent in exchange for the tenant leaving peacefully, or allow a tenant to pay some portion of owed rent in exchange for full satisfaction of the debt.
This is called accord and satisfaction. A landlord terminates his rights to the full rent in exchange for some benefit, and going forward, the tenant can assert this agreement as an eviction defense to non-payment.
An accord and satisfaction is an agreement which, upon its execution, completely terminates a party’s existing rights and constitutes a defense to any action to enforce pre-existing claims. The traditional elements of an accord and satisfaction are: (1) a dispute as to the amount of money owed; (2) a clear manifestation of intent by the debtor to the creditor that payment is in satisfaction of the disputed amount; (3) acceptance of satisfaction by the creditor. An accord and satisfaction requires a clear manifestation that both the debtor and the creditor intend the payment to be in full satisfaction of the entire indebtedness.
Accord and satisfaction issues often arises when a landlord and tenant enter a pay and go settlement agreement. If a landlord accepts a payment less than the total owed, the tenant can later argue he is not entitled to any amount above what was in the written agreement. See Fenner Real Estate v. Kramer, No. A-1989-16T4 (N.J. Super. June 20, 2018); but see Raji v. Saucedo, 461 N.J. Super. 166 (N.J. Super. 2019). In drafting such a “pay and go” settlement agreement, landlords should make sure the language clearly states the amount of outstanding rents that remain due on top of the amount in the “pay and go” settlement.
Reprisal or Retaliation
Tenants generally cannot be evicted in retaliation for enforcing their legal rights in New Jersey.
The Tenant Reprisal Act (N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.10 – 10.14) prohibits landlords from serving a notice to quit, changing the rules of the tenancy, or filing an eviction as a “reprisal” for:
- (a) attempting enforce or secure rights under the lease or contract, or state or federal laws;
- (b) making a good faith complaint – after notifying the landlord and giving him a reasonable time to correct the problem – to a governmental authority based on health, safety, or dwelling laws; or
- (c) being a member or participating in a lawful organization.
The landlord has the burden to prove the lack of intent of retaliation. In other words, the court assumes a landlord retaliated if an eviction is filed after a tenant sought to enforce their rights
If a tenant defeats an eviction with the retaliation defense, the landlord will need to re-file the eviction lawsuit if the tenant continues actions to justify an eviction.
The retaliation defense only applies torental premises: (1) used as dwelling; and (2) not owner occupied, unless there is more than two units. N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.13.
Landlords can suffer damages, injunctive relief and other equitable remedies, and other appropriate relief for impermissible retaliation. Tenants must file a different lawsuit to receive these remedies as they are not available in landlord-tenant summary proceedings. N.J.S.A. 2A:42-10.10.
In Harmon v. Biltmore Realty, No. A-2186-16T2 (N.J. Super. Oct. 19, 2018), a landlord sought to evict a tenant after she filed complaints to the Health Department, Division of Consumer Affairs, and the Department of Human Services relating to bed bug infestation. The tenant was requested damages for emotional distress but was denied for failure to provide sufficient evidence of harm.
Unauthorized Practice of Law
Landlords that are a corporation or limited liability partnership must be represented by a New Jersey attorney in eviction cases. Attorneys must both draft papers and appear at hearings on behalf of corporate landlords.
The prohibition of appearances and filing of court papers by business entities other than sole proprietors, contained in R. 1:21-1(c), shall apply to summary actions for possession of premises, except that a partner in a general partnership may file papers and appear pro se
The eviction case can be dismissed if a corporate landlord fails retain an attorney.
Failure to Register the Property
Landlords must register their rental premises with the city when renting houses, apartments, or buildings.
The Landlord Registration Act requires every landlord to register the name and address of:
- Registered agent and corporate officers for corporate owned property
- Person who resides in the county that is authorized to accept notices, receipts, and service on behalf of the owner if owner is not in the county
- Managing agent
- Employees or agents that provide regular maintenance
- Owner or managing agent who should be reached in times of emergencies (including phone number)
- Holder of recorded mortgages on the premises.
Landlords must provide a copy of the certificate of registration to every new tenant or occupant. N.J.S.A. 46:8-29.
Tenants cannot be evicted if the landlord has not register under the Landlord Registration Act. The court can leave the case open for up to 90-days, and if the land still has no registered, the case must be dismissed. N.J.S.A. 46:8-33.
In the case of 13-19 Wny v. Khalil, a judgment of eviction was overturned where a landlord failed to comply with the registration requirements:
Under the provisions of N.J.S.A. 46:8-33 no judgment for possession may be entered unless the landlord has complied with the registration requirement. Accordingly, our Rules require that a landlord’s complaint include a verified statement that the landlord has registered the leasehold and notified the tenant as required by N.J.S.A. 46:8-27. A landlord’s noncompliance with this requirement precludes the entry, of a judgment of possession, even if warranted, but the court is allowed to continu the matter for a period of up to 90 days to permit the landlord to register the premises.
13-19 Wny, LLC v. Khalil, No. A-5509-13T3 (N.J. Super. Feb. 9, 2016)
Payment of Rent
Evictions for nonpayment of rent can be dismissed by if the tenant pays before, during, or shortly after the eviction.
According to a recent development in the law (N.J. Senate Bill 3124), tenants may pay rent due and owing at any time before three business days after the lockout.
- Accept any method of rent payment;
- Allow the tenant to return to the premises within 2 business days;
- Notify the court in writing within 2 business days. No late fee may be charged not set forth in the application for Warrant for Removal.
No late fee may be charged not set forth in the application for Warrant for Removal.
Prior to this new development, tenants only had the opportunity cure rent up until the entry of the final judgment. N.J.S.A. 2A-18-55 stated: “the tenant or person in possession of the demised premises shall at any time on or before entry of final judgment, pay to the clerk of the court the rent claimed to be in default, together with the accrued costs of the proceedings, all proceedings shall be stopped.”
No Certificate of Occupancy
Landlords may not be able evict tenants in New Jersey if they’ve failed to obtain a required certificate of occupancy. See McQueen v. Brown, 342 N.J. Super. 120 (N.J. Super. 2001) (“the better course was for the court to have adjourned the matter to allow plaintiff to apply for an occupancy permit”).
Certificates of occupancy are issued by the municipality to confirm the premises comply with local housing code standard.
Eviction lawsuits in New Jersey can be dismissed due to the “automatic stay” issued upon filing for bankruptcy.
The Bankruptcy Abuse and Prevention and Consumer Protection Act sets forth that a bankruptcy petition stops “any action to obtain possession of property.” 11 U.S.C.A. § 362(a).
However, there is an exception.
The “automatic stay” will not stop the eviction if the judgment of possession was isued before the bankruptcy was filed. 11 U.S.C.A. § 362(b)(22). Tenants may still file a certification to have the eviction stayed if judgment was based on monetary default and defendant cures the monetary default within 30-days of filing the bankruptcy.
In Ivy Hill Apartments v. Sayagh, No. A-2221-14T1 (N.J. Super. Dec. 19, 2016), a tenant was evicted because the judgment of possession was entered before he filed for bankruptcy and the tenant did not submit a certification that the eviction was due to monetary default.