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Housing Authority & Urban Redevelopment Agency of the City of Atlantic City v. Taylor

334 N.J. Super. 573, 760 A.2d 362 (App. Div. 2000)

LANDLORD-TENANT; PUBLIC HOUSING; EVICTION—Attorneys fees and other costs of eviction are not included within a public housing tenant’s total monthly rent when calculating the statutory limit for such rent.

A public housing authority sought to evict a tenant for failure to pay rent. The lower court granted “judgment of possession to the authority as of a certain date in the event that the [tenant] had not, by that date, made payment to the Authority of not only the back rent ... but also a late fee ... plus attorneys’ fees and court cost(s).” The tenant appealed the validity of conditioning its right to remain in the apartment on the payment of the late fees, attorneys’ fees, and court costs. She argued that under the laws governing public housing authorities and their tenants, evicting a tenant for failure to pay the additional fees and costs was violative of federal statute. A federal statute limits the rent that a family may pay to a formula based upon the family’s income. In essence, the tenant argued that to include the attorneys’ fees and court costs as part of the rent would cause the rent to exceed the statutory limits for a public housing tenant. The Court disagreed. It held that the fees and costs at issue did not constitute a tenant’s “total monthly rent” within the scope of the federal law. Instead, the Court held them to be “additional costs incurred by the tenant as a result of failing to pay the rent when due and/or prior to the filing of a summary dispossess action. There is nothing in the federal law that prohibits these additional assessments where they are otherwise authorized by state law and lease provisions.”

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