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Jersey City Housing Authority v. Dutton

A-3153-02T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; HOUSING AUTHORITIES; EVICTION—Merely attaching the lease to a Notice to Quit for a public housing tenant does not serve to give the required information to the tenant that he or she has the right to a grievance hearing, even if that right is specified within the lease.

A local housing authority served one of its tenants with a Notice to Cease, detailing her habitually late payments of rent, which is a statutory ground for eviction. The Notice stated that if the tenant continued to make late payments, the authority would seek her eviction. The late rent payments continued and the authority filed a summary dispossess complaint. As a federally-funded agency, the authority was required to comply with the regulations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Those regulations require a public housing authority to notify a tenant of the specific grounds for eviction and must inform the tenant of both a right to review the applicable records of the authority and a right to a grievance hearing. This notification must be made prior to initiating dispossess proceedings.

The Appellate Division held that the authority failed to comply with the HUD procedures. The authority argued that it gave the tenant adequate notice because it had attached her lease to the Notice to Quit, and the lease itself specified her right to request a hearing. The Court disagreed, finding the notice inadequate because the relevant clause was on the fourth page of the five-page lease. A proper notice is expected to reasonably alert a tenant of the right to seek a grievance hearing and the Court found that the notice given by the authority failed to do so.

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