Marilyn Manor Co-Op Corp. v. Lee

A-6561-97T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)
  • Opinion Date: September 14, 1999

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION—When a court determines that a tenant owes disputed rent, it must give that tenant the opportunity to make payment by the end of the day on which the trial ended.

In an action to evict a residential tenant for non-payment of rent, the trial judge reserved decision and decided the case in a two page letter opinion which set the amount owed. However, instead of giving the tenant the right to pay the amount due by a time certain in order to avoid the entry of a judgment of possession, the lower court simply noted that a warrant for removal would issue ten days from the date of the opinion. By statute, a tenant in a non-payment of rent case may avoid eviction by payment of the rent “at any time on or before entry of final judgment ... to the clerk of the Court.” According to the Appellate Division, it was clear that in such cases where a tenant disputes the amount of rent due, the statute “envisions that the tenant must be given the right to pay the amount due in accord with the judge’s determination before the entry of judgment. Generally speaking, the tenant has until 4:30 p.m. on the date the trial has ended and the decision announced to make the required payment.” Accordingly, the Appellate Division found that, “[t]he judge obviously erred in this respect. To further complicate matters, the judge’s calculation of the amount due was incorrect.” Apparently, the procedural history following the trial judge’s original opinion was a comedy of errors, during the course of which the tenant posted the proper amount with the lower court, which never vacated the judgment of possession. After reviewing the entire history of the matter, the Court was “satisfied that the circumstances just recited manifest such fundamental unfairness in the proceeding that relief from the judgment of possession ... was warranted, and the third judge’s failure to grant the relief requested resulted from a mistaken exercise of discretion.”