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Kurtz v. Apuzzo

A-0248-09T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2010) (Unpublished)

LEASES; POSSESSION — Unless a residential lease says otherwise, the covenant of quite enjoyment means that the property has to be ready for the tenant to use and enjoy as its residence the same day that the lease provides the tenant may move into the property.

A residential lease provided that if there were any occupancy problems in a rental, single-family home, the landlord had fourteen days to address and correct those problems. After the lease was signed, the tenant went to the home with the intention of cleaning it before moving in, but there was no water. “Two days later, after the water had been turned on, she reentered the home and discovered a roach infestation.” The tenant told the landlord about the problem and the landlord, though claiming to be unaware of the roaches, immediately arranged for exterminator services. A week later the landlord told her tenant that the house was ready, but after visiting the house, the tenant decided to terminate the lease because the infestation apparently had not been remedied. The landlord returned the security deposit but claimed the right to retain the first month’s month because of the lease’s provision giving her “fourteen days to address and correct any occupancy problem.”

The tenant sued for return of the rent and the lower court ruled that “[w]hen a tenant signs the lease, the tenant is entitled to what we call qui[et] enjoyment. [This mean] [t]hat [the] property has to be ready for a tenant to use and enjoy as their residence the same day that the lease provides they move in.” As a result, the lower court ordered that the rent be returned. On appeal, the landlord lost again. The Appellate Division rejected all procedural arguments and then looked at the lease. After doing so, it held that the lower court “was correct in [its] application of the law to the facts presented.” According to the Court, the landlord “had no contractual basis on which to demand rent because [she] could not deliver lawful possession and quiet enjoyment of the premises.” The Court agreed with the lower court that the lease’s provision giving the landlord fourteen days to cure an occupancy problem only took effect once occupancy had been delivered.

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