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New York East Coast Management v. Gonzalez

376 N.J. Super. 264, 870 A.2d 314 (Law Div. 2004)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION — Under the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act, a landlord does not have to serve a notice to cease or a notice to quit in Spanish in order to evict a tenant for making habitually late rent payments.

A landlord rented a residential dwelling to two tenants, both of whom spoke and read only Spanish. The tenants consistently made late rent payments. The landlord initiated the procedure to evict the tenants for habitual late payment of rent under the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act. First, the landlord served a notice to cease upon the tenants informing them of the consistent late payments. The landlord then served a notice to quit upon the tenants. After receiving no response to either notice, the landlord filed a complaint for eviction against the tenants. The tenants then moved to dismiss the action arguing that the two notices were not suitable under the Act because they were not in Spanish. In support of their argument, the tenants relied on 5000 Park Associates v. Collado, 253 N.J. Super. 653 (Law Div. 1991), where the court held that a tenant who read and spoke only Spanish could not be evicted because the notices to cease and quit served on the tenant were in English, and therefore were not effective under the Act. The tenants then moved for summary judgment based upon that other court’s ruling.

The lower court denied the tenants’ motion for summary judgment ruling that the court’s decision in 5000 Park Associates v. Collado was inconsistent with the relevant portion of the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act. The earlier case dealt with a requirement that relocation notices be sent in Spanish. It held that, in contrast, the Act does not expressly require a notice to cease or a notice to quit to be served in Spanish. It found that it would place an unreasonable burden on all landlords to require them to determine their tenants’ proficiency in the English language and to serve notices on their tenants based on each tenant’s native language. On appeal, the Appellate Division concluded that the landlord fully complied with the Act by serving the notice to cease and notice to quit in English and denied the tenants’ motion for summary judgment.

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