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Housing Authority of the City of Newark v. Johnson

A-3355-02T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION—The evidentiary standard for evicting a tenant for assaulting or making a threat against his or her landlord is by a preponderance of evidence.

A tenant of a local housing authority threw a telephone at an authority employee. The employee reported the incident to the police and described the assailant’s physical characteristics and clothing. She also gave the name of another tenant as the assailant. The police did not follow up on the matter, nor did they have her identify the person she named.

The housing authority served the named tenant with a notice to quit, demanding that he vacate his premises, based upon the assault upon the employee. When the tenant refused to vacate, the housing authority filed an eviction action, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2a:18-61.1p. This statute allows a tenant to be evicted where “[t]he person has been found, by a preponderance of the evidence, liable in a civil action for removal commenced under this act for an offense under . . . N.J.S.A. 2C:12-1 or N.J.S.A. 2C:12-3 involving assault or terrorist threats against the landlord, a member of the landlord’s family or an employee of the landlord.” Thus, the burden was on the housing authority to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the tenant assaulted the employee.

The Court found that the burden had not been met because the employee failed to identify the tenant when asked to do so at trial, and the housing authority had provided no other evidence that the tenant was the actual assailant. Therefore, failing to meet the burden of proof, the housing authority was ordered to accept the tenant’s rent and the tenant was allowed to remain in possession.

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