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Housing Authority of the City of Newark v. Davis

A-3928-96T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1998) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION—A pre-eviction notice alleging that the tenant is harboring a drug dealer in a public housing project must expressly state every element of the grounds for the eviction, including the tenant’s knowledge of the alleged activity and that the activities are taking place on housing authority property.

A family was living in a housing project when one of its children was arrested on suspicion of dealing drugs. The owner-housing authority filed a complaint against the tenant under N.J.S. 2A:18-61.1. That statute permits eviction of a tenant if that tenant permits a person to live at the premises and knows that he or she committed an offense under the Comprehensive Drug Reform Act of 1987 while on the landlord’s property. The statute also permits an action for eviction without waiting for completion of criminal proceedings. The tenant argued that the notice to quit was deficient because it failed to expressly state that she harbored her son knowing he was selling drugs on housing authority property. Despite this deficiency, a summary dispossess order was issued, removing the tenant and her children from their apartment.

The Appellate Division found the notice to quit to be so insufficient that the trial judge should have dismissed the complaint, and that the failure of proof at trial should have warranted judgment for the tenant anyway. In a summary dispossess action such as this, a notice to quit is required to specify, in detail, the basis prompting lease termination. The notice only stated that the son was charged with a drug offense and that the lease was being terminated. Since the notice failed to state that the violation occurred on housing authority property, or to allege that the tenant knew of the drug dealing, it was insufficient and the eviction motion should have been dismissed. Even if the notice was proper, the Court held that the landlord failed to satisfy the applicable standards since there was no proof that the son resided in the apartment after his arrest, which would clearly prove the tenant permitted the son to live there after knowing he was dealing drugs on housing authority property.


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