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How NJ Residential Laws Are Allowing Tenants To Hold Properties Hostage

HADDONFIELD, N.J. (CBS) -- It's taken a lot for realtor Brad Tomasiefski to be able to show a Cherry Hill condo to some potential buyers. "It's been on the market, peacefully, for the last month and a half since they moved out," Tomaziefski said.

The issue is that a former tenant, who for about three months, just would not budge.

"He actually had a cape on. In one showing, he had a cape on, and his underwear, and he showed up at the door with his cape and underwear on. It was amusing," Tomaziefski explained.

As amusing as a home held hostage...

New Jersey residential leasing laws are notoriously tenant friendly, meaning that evictions are often a huge undertaking.

"When landlords were able to quickly and easily evict, they become more burdens on the state, having to deal with people and finding housing," Attorney Brian T. Reagan explained.

The Haddonfield attorney cites New Jersey's 1974 Anti-Eviction Act. He says even with rent going unpaid, court proceedings can take months.

This can also confront buyers who purchase a seemingly vacant property from a bank.

"If it looks vacant, and then they go into the house and there is someone there and the person pulls out a lease and says 'I have a lease and I've been paying it all this time," Reagan said. Whether that is true or not, could also spark a lengthy, expensive court battle.

So, to avoid that, some owners are resorting to cash for keys. Think of it as paying a ransom for ones own house.

"In this case, it was a lot of money they offered him and he didn't take it," Reagan said.

Eventually, a missed court date lead to an eviction ruling. The home is now on the market for $55,ooo. The cape wearing tenant is not included.

"He was a nightmare," Tomaziefski said.

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