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Brunswick Street Associates v. Gerard

357 N.J. Super. 598, 816 A.2d 213 (Law Div. 2002)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; NOTICE—The time period that must elapse between a notice to cease and a notice to quit is a function of the exigency of the default and the time it would reasonably take for the tenant to cure the default.

A residential lease limited authorized occupants of an apartment to two tenants and their two minor children. Another provision prohibited assignment or subletting of the apartment without the landlord’s consent. The landlord believed that the tenant was in violation of the lease and sent a notice to quit calling for the violations to be corrected within five days. On the sixth day, the landlord served the tenants with a notice to quit demanding possession based upon the tenants having failed to get rid of the unauthorized occupants within the five day period. An eviction suit filed.

Testimony taken at the eviction hearing showed that the tenants had, in fact, “substantially breached the lease by the unauthorized occupancy by [an] unexplained, (but described) male, and that occupancy by [a grandmother] was also a substantial breach of the lease.” Nonetheless, the complaint was dismissed “without prejudice because of the unreasonably short period between the notice to cease and the notice to quit.” That because “the Legislature did not prescribe any specific period for the interval between the service of the notice to cease and the notice to quit,” the court is required to interpret the legislative intent. “In considering the probable intent of the Legislature, to wit, to provide a reasonable period for the tenant to cure the breach of this lease,” the Court took notice of varying legislative time periods in related legislation concerning other aspects of the eviction process. It cited requirements calling for three days’ notice to quit, one month notice to quit, and even a three year notice to quit. The Court believed that “[t]he difference in the periods appear[ed] to depend upon the ground for eviction; the more exigent the circumstance, the shorter the notice.” With that in mind, the Court believed that five days was an incredibly short period of time within which unauthorized occupants could find alternative housing. The Anti-Eviction Act was adopted because of a lack of reasonably affordable housing. Therefore, because the Court found the time period to be too short for the unauthorized occupants to find reasonable housing, and also because the occupancy was neither illegal nor hazardous, and because the landlord had tolerated the breach for at least a year, the Court concluded that five days’ notice, in these circumstances, was unreasonable and, therefore, would not evict the tenants.

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