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329 Palisade Avenue, LLC v. De Jesus

A-6359-05T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; NOTICES — Where a Notice to Quit is replete with typographical errors, and erroneously refers to a non-existing document, those defects can be fatal to a court’s jurisdiction and they not subject to correction or amplification at trial.

A residential tenant of about five years was served with a Notice to Quit. Attached were prior Notices to Quit that were purportedly sent to the tenant on two earlier dates. The Notice to Quit, itself, gave no grounds to support the notice. One of the two documents attached was a Notice of Quit that presumably had been sent at an earlier date. The Appellate Division discerned that it was actually a notice used in a prior, unsuccessful, eviction proceeding. The same was true of the Notice to Cease that was attached. The Notice to Cease included a number of specific items, all of which, if properly stated and, if true, would have given the landlord the right to evict its tenant. Nonetheless, the lower court dismissed the eviction action, holding that wherever there is a deviation from the statutory notice requirements, even if the landlord acts in good faith, and even if the tenant has not been prejudiced, a trial court must dismiss the eviction action.

According to the Appellate Division, “the defects contained in the Notice to Quit [were] palpable and unmistakable, mandating the dismissal of [the] residential tenancy action. First, the notice [was] replete with typographical errors, erroneously referring to a non-existing document.” The purported Notice to Quit that was attached to the one before the Court was actually dated May 29 whereas the Notice that the landlord was relying on referred to it as having been sent in March. Further, the Notice to Quit “attempt[ed] to incorporate by reference a non-existing document, finishing with a vaguely worded allusion to ‘among other things, willful and/or grossly negligent damage to the premises.’” The Court held that these “defects were fatal to the court’s jurisdiction, and were not subject to correction or amplification at trial.” Recognizing that New Jersey’s Anti-Eviction Act “grants residential tenants numerous procedural rights and safeguards, protecting against involuntary displacement except for [] specific enumerated grounds,” the Court reversed the lower court’s decision and threw out the eviction.

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