The following cases have recently been decided by the New
Jersey Courts and have an impact on property owners and managers.
In this housing discrimination case, known as Pasquince
v.Brighton Arms Apartments Mr. Pasquince, a Section 8
recipient, had applied for an apartment at the Brighton Arms
apartment complex. For the apartment at Brighton Arms Apartments,
Mr. Pasquince's Section 8 voucher would have paid 85% of the
monthly rent and Mr. Pasquince would have been responsible
for only $141.00 per month. A credit check revealed that Mr.
Pasquince owed $2,292.00 to his former landlord. At trial,
Mr. Pasquince admitted that he had been evicted from his prior
residence as a result of his non-payment of that amount. As
a result of the poor credit/rental history, Mr. Pasquince's
application was rejected.
In an unpublished decision, the Honorable Mark Sullivan (who
sits in Monmouth County) held that the owner's basis for rejecting
Mr. Pasquince's application for an apartment not did amount
to discrimination based upon his source of income. The Appeal
of Judge Sullivan's decision is presently pending in the Appellate
Division. Feinstein, Raiss, Kelin & Booker, L.L.C. filed the
amicus brief on behalf of the New Jersey Apartment Association
in the appeal.
In Wozniak v. Pennella, 373 N.J. Super. 445 (App. Div.
2004) the Appellate Division ruled that a residential landlord's
act of raising a tenant's rent in excess of the limit established
by the City's rent control ordinance violated the Consumer
Fraud Act. Under this statute, a tenant is entitled to three
times the damages and attorney's fees.
N.J.S.A. 46:8-21 was modified to hold that a successor owner
is liable to a tenant for the return of the security deposit
regardless of whether the owner actually received the deposit
at the time title was acquired. However, in an unreported
decision the Court in Young Chen and Pao Ching Lee v. Greenway
Village Apartments and Jay Phillips, A-4886-03T2 (App.
Div. 2005) held that an owner of property which did not receive
a security deposit from the prior owner for a particular tenant
at the time the property was purchased, was not liable to
the tenant for the return of the tenant security deposit because
the property was purchased prior to January 1, 2004, the effective
date of the amendment to N.J.S.A. 46:8-21.
In Rehnborg v. Queen Anne, Inc. d/b/a Grand Imperial
Apartments, A-4320-03T5 (App. Div. 2004), an unreported opinion,
the Appellate Division held that once the 30 day period to
return the security deposit has run and the deposit is not
returned, the tenant is entitled to double the amount wrongfully
withheld. The court clarified the formula to be used when
doubling monies wrongfully deducted from a deposit.
Eviction Based Upon An Odor
In Ivy Hill Park Section III v. Smirnova, 362 N.J.
Super. 421 (Law Div. 2003), a tenant was boiling his urine
on the stove. This caused an odor that disturbed the tenant
living above. The owner pursued the eviction on the basis
that the odor created damage to its property. The Court dismissed
the complaint holding that in order to evict for damage to
the landlord's property, the damage must be to tangible property.
Eviction Based Upon Habitual Late Rent Payments
One of the issues in Ivy Hill Park Section III, Inc., v.
Abutidze, 371 N.J. Super. 103 (App. Div. 2004) involved
the landlord's acceptance of late rental payments after issuing
the tenant a Notice to Cease for habitual late payments. This
Court concluded that following a Notice to Cease, the landlord
cannot accept further late payments in silence. The payments
can be accepted, however, if the tenant is notified at the
time of acceptance of the payment that the late payment is
made in breach of the lease, that acceptance of the payment
as well as any late charge is without prejudice to the owner's
rights and is not a waiver of the owner's rights to enforce
the Notice to Cease and to pursue eviction.
Notices In A Foreign Language
The Honorable Mahlon Fast concluded in New York East Coast
Management v. Jose Gonzalez and Maria DeLeon, 376 N.J.
Super. 264 (Law Div. 2005) that a notice to quit, given in
English to a tenant who could not read English, was sufficient
notice under New Jersey law despite the holding in 5000
Park Associates v. Collado, 253 N.J. Super. 653 (Law Div.
1991). In Collado, the Court held that an owner was
legally obligated to serve a notice in a foreign language
to a tenant who was "illiterate in the English language."
There now exists two contradictory opinions on this point
In 1266 Apartment Corp. v. New Horizon Deli, 368 N.J.
Super. 456 (App. Div. 2004), the Appellate Division concluded
that the retaliation defense utilized by residential tenants
in summary dispossess proceedings is not available to commercial
The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded in Miah v. Ahmed,
177 N.J. 511 (2004) that tenants who are evicted as a result
of a zoning ordinance violation for an illegal occupancy and
entitled to relocation assistance constituting six months
of monthly rent regardless of the tenant's actual expenses.
The sum must be paid prior to eviction, and the landlord cannot
reduce its obligation by the amount of past-due rent or other
damages owed by the tenant.