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Haller v. Razim

A-3326-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; NOTICES— A court may not evict a tenant on grounds not contained in the notice to quit.

A landlord served a Notice to Quit on an 85 year old residential tenant alleging that the tenant had, through gross negligence, caused damage to the premises. The notice made reference to a continuous flow of water and sewage leaking through from the tenant’s apartment to the floor below. At trial, the landlord and tenant entered into a settlement agreement that allowed the landlord to restore the case to the trial calendar. The agreement also permitted the landlord to amend the complaint to assert additional grounds for eviction, but required the landlord to serve a new Notice to Quit if asserting the new grounds. The landlord served another Notice to Quit incorporating the terms of the prior notice and made reference to additional leaking of water and urine through the floor. It then had the matter restored to the trial calendar and obtained a judgment of possession. There was extensive testimony from the Landlord regarding the tenant’s drunkenness. The lower court concluded that the tenant had caused the damage as a result of his consumption of alcoholic beverages and that he was grossly negligent. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that a Notice to Quit must be factually correct and must inform the tenant of the facts upon which the landlord will rely in seeking an eviction. A lower court is not permitted to evict a tenant on a ground not mentioned by the landlord. Here, the landlord’s Notice to Quit never mentioned the tenant’s drinking alcohol, so it could not evict him based on those facts.

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