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Hunters Glen Apartments v. Williams

A-2467-97T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)

LEASES; INTERPRETATION—A residential tenant was excused from technical non-compliance with its lease where the document was lengthy, in small print, and in language virtually incomprehensible to the tenant.

A residential tenant’s lease contained a provision allowing the tenant to terminate the lease on thirty days’ written notice and required that the notice be accompanied by a termination fee payment equal to two months’ rent. Although not critical to the final result, the landlord claimed that its tenant did not tender the required two months’ additional rent. The lower court and the Appellate Division were apparently willing to find that had the tenant told its landlord to retain the security deposit and then had paid or even offered to pay the remaining amount, the tenant would have complied with its obligations under the clause. Although such a reading was contrary to the express language of the lease, the Court held that since “the lease consisted of fourteen pages, plus another five pages of riders and addenda, all in small print and in language that is virtually incomprehensible, [it] would not permit this case to be determined against [the tenant] because of any technical non-compliance with the fine points of that instrument of adhesion. Landlords who employ such documents cannot realistically expect courts to interpret or enforce them as written, to the detriment of tenants.” On the facts, the tenant never tendered the two months’ payment and never offered to pay anything more than its security deposit. Therefore, the Court held that the tenant was responsible for ordinary rental damages upon its having left the apartment early.


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