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Housing Authority of the City of Passaic v. Jackson

A-1843-09T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; HOUSING AUTHORITY; EVICTION — A housing authority, seeking to evict a tenant because a family member was found guilty of drug crimes on the authority’s property, must present proofs from which a court can evaluate and confirm whether the authority’s decision to evict is a reasonable exercise of the authority’s discretion.

A municipality’s housing authority asserted that it had the sole discretion to determine whether to evict a tenant for the drug-related activity of a family member and that the lower court improperly substituted its view for that of the housing authority. The tenant’s son had been arrested and found guilty of possession of marijuana on the housing authority’s property. The lower court found no evidence as to when the housing authority learned about the tenant’s son’s arrest nor as to when the tenant became aware of her son’s drug involvement. The lower court also noted that, at the time of the notice to quit, the son had been removed from the apartment, and there was no threat posed to the other residents of the complex.

The Appellate Division affirmed the determination of the lower court because the housing authority did not present proofs from which the lower court could evaluate and confirm whether the housing authority’s decision to evict was a reasonable exercise of discretion. It was not clear from the record whether the authority was acting pursuant to a blanket enforcement policy or whether, in fact, it had considered this situation’s circumstances and simply declined to reveal to the court the factors it considered. Factors that need to be taken into account in such situations include: the degree to which a housing project suffers from the crime, the seriousness of the offending action, and the reasonable steps taken by the tenant to prevent or mitigate the action. As the housing authority declined the opportunity to so inform the lower court, it was not unreasonable under the circumstances of the case, for the lower court to have conducted its own review of the relevant factors and to have concluded that an eviction was not warranted.

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