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49-71 State Street Associates, LLC v. Yates

A-4548-07T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2009) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTIONS; LEASES — Even though a rent control ordinance may obligate a landlord to provide its tenant with a written lease, the tenant still may be evicted for non-payment of rent based on an oral lease.

A municipal rent leveling board ruled that a landlord had impermissibly charged excessive rent. The landlord was ordered to reimburse its tenant for rent payments made in excess of the fair rental price set by the board. It also found that the landlord had violated the municipality’s rent control ordinance by failing to provide its tenant with a written lease for at least a one-year period. The tenant challenged the board’s determination.

The lower court reduced the “fair rental,” finding that the landlord owed its tenant an even greater amount. It declared that tenant’s obligation to pay rent was satisfied by virtue of overpayments previously made. The tenant appealed.

While that appeal was pending, the landlord filed a new action to dispossess tenant when the tenant stopped paying rent for seven months. The tenant argued the lower court lacked jurisdiction because landlord did not provide him with a lease as required by the rent control ordinance. The tenant also argued that the landlord could not prevail under the anti-eviction statute because it failed to send a notice and demand for rent. The lower court rejected tenant’s arguments, finding that it had jurisdiction to hear the case even when there is no written lease (as required by the rent control ordinance) as it was “a simple non-payment case.” The Court found that, even though there was no written lease, the tenant was a month-to-month tenant, who was protected from being evicted as long as he paid his rent. Here, the tenant failed to pay rent for seven months. Accordingly, the Court entered an eviction judgment giving the tenant three days to pay the delinquent. The lower court further found that landlord had given sufficient notice to evict in the form of the complaint. The tenant appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed, holding that tenant had an obligation to pay monthly rent as of a certain date. When the tenant failed to do so, the applicable statute permitted its landlord to evict tenant whether the lease was oral or written. It declared that although landlord was obligated to provide its tenant with a lease, such a violation did not absolve the tenant from its responsibility to pay rent. In fact, the Court noted that the board’s resolution recognized the tenant’s obligation to pay rent despite the landlord’s multiple violations of the municipal code. It also noted that the anti-eviction statute requires that a landlord make a written demand and send a written notice for delivery of possession before a judgment of possession can be entered “except in the nonpayment of rent,” which was the case here. The Court agreed with the lower court that the complaint itself provided notice.


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