Township of Berkeley v. Beachwood Mall

A-6267-96T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: January 20, 1999

LIENS; TAX LIENS; LEASES—A property owner can not delegate responsibility for payment of sewer charges to its tenants; regardless of any such private arrangement, any lien for such taxes will be against the real property.

Sewer bills for a retail shopping center went unpaid. As a result, sewer tax sales certificates were sold by the municipality. The shopping center owner contended that the retail tenants were responsible for the sewer bills, but admitted that it received a copy of the sewer bills that the municipality sent to each tenant. The owner’s argument was premised on its contention that the lease agreements with the tenants required each tenant to pay the water and sewer bills directly to the sewer authority and, therefore, that the municipality should look to the tenants for any outstanding sewer charges. The Court found no merit to this argument. The applicable New Jersey statute provides that in the event “a service charge of any municipal authority with regard to any parcel of real property owned by any person other than the State or an agency or subdivision thereof shall not be paid as and when due, the unpaid balance thereof and all interest accruing thereon shall be a lien on such parcel.” According to the Court, the clear language of the statute authorizes a lien against the property for unpaid charges of any municipal authority. The shopping center owner could not delegate the responsibility for the payment of sewer charges to its tenants. Consequently, any lien for those charges would be against the real property regardless of any private arrangement between a landlord and its tenant.