Franklin Tower One, L.L.C. v. N.M.

304 N.J. Super. 586, 701 A.2d 739 (App. Div. 1997)
  • Opinion Date: October 22, 1997

LEASES; DISCRIMINATION—A landlord cannot refuse to rent an apartment to a person with a Section 8 rental voucher. It is discriminatory even if the reason for refusal is that the landlord doesn’t want the administrative hassle associated with this federal program.

Under a federal rental assistance program, a tenant received a rental voucher assisting her with monthly rent payments. Her landlord refused to participate in the voucher program, rejected the voucher, and filed a summons and complaint against the tenant for non-payment of rent. The trial court found that the landlord could refuse to participate in the voucher program and was not required to accept federal rental assistance vouchers because of the “considerable administrative burden,” and because compelled participation would alter the contractual agreement between landlord and tenant, to landlord’s detriment. The judge further found that the plain language of a New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act statute, on which tenant relied, did not apply to the federal voucher program. On appeal, the tenant claimed that under the anti-eviction statute, which prohibits a landlord from refusing to rent to an individual because of the source of any lawful rent payment, the landlord was compelled to accept the voucher as lawful payment for rent.

The Appellate Division reversed, holding that the landlord’s compliance with the New Jersey anti-eviction statute was mandatory and that it must accept federal voucher payments from an existing tenant to assist with rent payments. One of the stated intentions of the bill was to protect tenants receiving government rent assistance from housing discrimination. The Court found that this express intent makes clear that the payments at issue are within the ambit of the statute, even if the plain language does not mandate compliance or specifically include the federal program under which the tenant received rent vouchers. Additionally, the Court found the public policy goals of the statute to be: (1) securing affordable housing for low-income persons, (2) prohibiting a landlord from refusing to rent to a person merely because of objections to the source of a person’s lawful income, and (3) requiring that landlords defer to the needs of the tenant population.