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Housing Authority of the City of Bayonne v. Booker

A-3106-02T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; DRUGS—Conviction of a drug crime that occurs twenty-five blocks from a tenant’s apartment is not considered evidentiary of criminal activity on or near the premises because of the distance involved.

A municipal housing authority attempted to evict a tenant who had been convicted of drug possession. The housing authority claimed that under the lease and pursuant to the anti-eviction statute, it was permitted to evict the tenant. The lease permitted the housing authority to terminate the lease if the tenant was involved in any criminal activity, on or off the premises, that threatened the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment by the other tenants. The lease also listed, as grounds for eviction, any drug related criminal activity on or near the premises. The lower court determined that, since the tenant was apprehended twenty five blocks from her apartment on her way to a bar (where she intended to smoke the cocaine), she was not on or near the housing authority’s premises and was not subject to eviction for her conviction. It also found that the tenant’s drug activity did not threaten the health, welfare or safety of the other residents of the building because it took place twenty five blocks from the building. The lower court also held the anti-eviction statute inapplicable. One provision of the anti-eviction statute, relied upon by the housing authority, authorized eviction is the tenant violated a lease provision regarding drug activity. The lower court found that, since the drug activity did not take place on or near the premises, it was not in breach of the lease. Another provision permits eviction if a tenant is convicted of a drug offense within the leased premises or the building. Again, the lower court found that since the offense took place twenty five blocks away, it was not on the premises and was not grounds for eviction. The Appellate Division affirmed.

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