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Metrovest GPNJ, LLC v. Naeem

A-1468-02T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

LEASES; NOTICE—Where a tenant is in breach of both a lease provision and a similar municipal ordinance, a notice given with respect to the lease violation is sufficient to evict the tenant on those grounds and the more elaborate notice requirements for code violations is unnecessary.

A tenant occupied a studio apartment. Under the lease, the apartment’s use and occupancy was limited to no more than two people. There was a prior lease for this tenant. It had only this particular tenant’s name on it and “did not limit occupancy to a specified co-tenant, rather it limited occupancy to two persons with a provision for automatic termination of the lease if more than two persons occupied the apartment.” The later lease was limited to the original tenant and another named individual and contained a provision addressing “the eventuality of one joint tenant remaining on the premises without the other, prohibiting the remaining tenant from having other persons occupy the premises prior to obtaining written consent of the landlord.” The tenant denied the validity of the second lease, claiming he never signed it. The lower court “assumed for purposes of the trial” that the later lease was not valid and did not rely on that lease in its decision.

The apartment was remarkably small with only one room of living space containing both a kitchen and a bathroom. Although not the basis for the lower court’s decision, the municipality’s occupancy regulations limited the occupancy of that size apartment to two people. The landlord’s rules also called for a two person limit. Eventually, the original tenant’s wife and two small children moved into the apartment and the co-tenant moved out. When the situation came to the landlord’s attention, it sent a notice to cease based on the overcrowded apartment. At a bench trial, the lower court determined that the lease provision was reasonable and that the tenant had violated the lease. The lower court entered judgment for possession, but issued a hardship stay. The tenant appealed. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that the notice given to the tenant was appropriate because the eviction was under the provisions of the lease and not for a code violation. Further, governmental regulations supported the reasonableness of the lease occupancy restrictions. This was not a situation where a family already in occupancy grew in size by the birth of a second child. With all of that as background, the Appellate Division upheld the eviction.

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