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Bavosa v. Bobbitt

A-5277-06T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; NOTICES — When the landlord-tenant court sends a notice of service by both regular mail and certified mail, even though the certified mail notice is returned as unclaimed, if the mail by regular mail is not returned, the notice is considered to be effective.

A landlord and a tenant entered into a residential lease. The landlord agreed to let the tenant move her belongings into the apartment shortly before the lease was signed. During the first month of the lease, the landlord sought to evict the tenant on the grounds that she had lost trust in the tenant after the locks to the apartment were changed without her consent. The tenant agreed to leave roughly two months later. During the two-month period in which the tenant remained on the property, the landlord brought a small claims action for back rent, unpaid utility bills, and damage that the landlord claimed was done to the apartment by the tenant. The lower court sent notice of the action to the tenant by regular mail and by certified mail two weeks after the suit was filed. The notice was sent to the tenant’s post office box by regular and certified mail, but the court received no response. The lower court then entered a default judgment in favor of the landlord. The default judgment was later vacated, but then reinstated on the landlord’s motion for reconsideration.

On appeal, the tenant argued that she never received proper service for notice of the action. The Court pointed out that service of notice on a party by mail is considered effective even if the duplicate certified mailing is returned, if the mailing by regular mail was not returned. According to the record, the notice that was sent by certified mail was returned as unclaimed, but the regular mail was not returned. The Court found that service of notice on the tenant was effective and affirmed the default judgment in favor of the landlord.


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