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147 Broadway Corp. v. Robinson

A-6483-06T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; DAMAGES — The issuing of a judgment in possession, even of a consent judgment with a settlement agreement, does not mean that the tenant has waived its right to challenge any subsequent action by the landlord to recover damages.

A landlord sued an apartment tenant for unpaid rent. The lower court ruled that the tenant had no defenses because of a prior summary dispossession proceeding in favor of the landlord. The tenant appealed and the Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s ruling. It pointed out that “the sole purpose of a summary action instituted by [a] landlord [is] to recover possession of leased premises [and] to enable the landlord to obtain speedy recovery of the premises. [P]ossession of the premises is the only available remedy for nonpayment of rent because money damages may not be awarded in a summary dispossess action.” On the other hand, according to the Court, “neither a landlord nor tenant are precluded from seeking to recover money damages in a subsequent proceeding.” Further, “summary dispossession action[s] [are] not conclusive or binding as between parties in subsequent litigation.” The landlord and tenant had entered into a “Consent To Enter Judgment for Possession (Consent), a settlement agreement that called for [the tenant] to surrender possession to the landlord within ten days of the entry of judgment. The agreement also provided that the ‘[t]enant shall pay no money[.]’” This, however, did not mean that the tenant waived her right to challenge any subsequent action commenced by the landlord to recover damages arising out of non-payment of rent. The tenant was entitled to raise her defenses to the money action instituted by her landlord.

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