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Cassesa v. Zalewski

A-6312-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION—The Landlord-Tenant part of the Special Civil Part has no authority to award monetary damages, only to determine if rent is due, owing, and unpaid.

A tenant received a determination from a rent leveling board that he had been overcharged by a prior landlord. In an effort to recoup the overpayments, for almost two years, the tenant set off the amount he owed as rent against the amount of the overpayment. The landlord filed an eviction complaint based on non-payment of rent. The tenant claimed he was entitled to off-set the overpayments to the prior landlord. The landlord responded that a six year statute of limitations applied to the overpayments, and that his liability could not exceed the excess paid during the six year period. The lower court disagreed. It dismissed the eviction proceeding and awarded the tenant a judgment for the balance of the overpayment, even though the tenant did not file a lawsuit seeking repayment. The Appellate Division affirmed the dismissal of the eviction proceeding but reversed the monetary judgment. The Landlord-Tenant Part of the Special Civil Part has limited jurisdiction. It must determine whether rent is due, owing, and unpaid, but it has no authority to award monetary damages.

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