Carol Apartments v. Crockett

A-3209-96T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1997) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: December 1, 1997

LEASES; IMPLIED COVENANTS—Not every defect or inconvenience in an apartment is a breach of the landlord’s implied covenant of habitability.

A landlord sought to evict its tenant for non-payment of rent. The tenant responded with a claim that the implied warranty of habitability was breached by leaky windows. At trial, the landlord explained that a dispute had arisen with the contractor hired to replace the windows. In response to numerous complaints from the tenant, the Department of Community Affairs inspected the apartment and ordered the landlord to caulk the window and install weather-stripping, which the landlord testified it had done. Without further inquiry about the truth of landlord’s assertions, and without regard as to whether the work was properly done, the trial court ordered the landlord to sign a contract for replacement of the tenant’s windows. If landlord failed to comply, the tenant would be permitted to have the windows replaced and then deduct the cost from its rent.

The Appellate Division found that the lower court’s decision had been rendered without any inquiry into whether the caulking and weather stripping corrected the problem so as to remove the basis for finding a continued breach of the implied covenant of habitability. This was an error because not every defect or inconvenience is a breach of the implied covenant of habitability. For a breach, the conditions must render the premises uninhabitable in the eyes of a reasonable person. Since the trial court failed to establish whether the work rectified the situation or whether the work had been done at all, the trial judge’s decision lacked an adequate basis and was vacated, with the matter remanded for further factual findings.