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Bandler v. Maurice

A-711-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LEASES; CONDOMINIUMS; EVICTION—Only sixty days’ notice to quit is needed to remove a tenant from a condominium unit where the unit owner owns three or fewer units and has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who intends to personally occupy the unit after closing.

A tenant of a residential condominium unit sued her landlord alleging: (a) breach of contract; (b) wrongful termination of her tenancy; (c) denial of her right to exercise the lease’s renewal option; (d) that an agreement between the tenant’s father and the landlord’s real estate agent relieved her of her obligation to pay rent for the final six weeks of her year-long lease and required return of her security deposit; and (e) that she was entitled to damages for the difference between the fair market rental value of the premises when delivered vacant and its value if encumbered by the lease that the tenant had claimed to have been wrongfully terminated. Her landlord counterclaim for unpaid rent. The lower court dismissed the tenant’s suit.

On appeal, the Appellate Division remanded some of the dismissed counts to the lower court. On remand, the tenant moved to amend her complaint to assert new causes of action. Her motion was denied, and a jury trial was held on the remaining claims. After the evidence was presented, the lower court entered a directed verdict against the tenant on the ground that the landlord’s notice to quit satisfied the relevant provisions of the Anti-Eviction Act, as construed in prior case law.

The tenant appealed again. The Appellate Division deferred to the discretion exercised by the lower court, and affirmed its decision not to let the tenant amend her complaint to assert new causes of action. Similarly, it affirmed the directed verdict, holding that the validity of a termination under the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act depends on the landlord’s compliance with the relaxed notice provisions applicable when removal is effected under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61(1)(2). This subsection of the Anti-Eviction Act permits a landlord to remove a tenant from a residential condominium if “the owner seeks to personally occupy the unit, or has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.” In a prior case, the Court held that a notice of sixty days, rather than three years, was acceptable prior to removal. Also, it was decided that the formal notice provisions applicable to owners of more than three units under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.9 did not apply to owners of three units or less, which was the case here.

According to the Court, the lower court, on remand, had correctly found that a sixty-day notice to quit was provided by the landlord. Also, evidence showed that the landlord owned only one condominium unit, that she had contracted to sell it for use as a residence by her buyer, that the contract of sale required the unit to be delivered vacant, and that the buyer sought to move into the unit immediately upon its purchase.

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