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Partroy Associates v. Diguglielmo

A-2494-10T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

LEASES; EMPLOYEES — Although a landlord may evict its superintendent whose apartment is occupied based upon the employment relationship, if the apartment had been previously occupied by the same superintendent pursuant to a written lease and the lease did not provide otherwise, that ground for eviction will be inapplicable.

In 1999, a husband and wife rented an apartment in a garden apartment complex. In 2004, the couple signed a one year renewal lease. After several years, and during the renewal lease period, the husband signed an employment contract to work as superintendent for the apartment complex. The contract stated that the family would leave the apartment within five days if the husband left his job. The landlord never terminated or amended the renewed lease to condition the wife’s occupancy of the apartment on the husband’s employment; and the wife was not a party to the employment contract. In 2009, the couple separated and the husband moved out of the apartment, while his wife and children remained. In 2010, the landlord terminated the employment relationship with the husband and gave notice to the wife to vacate her apartment. The wife refused to leave and the landlord sought possession of the premises pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2:A:18-61.1(m), arguing that termination of the husband’s job was good cause to evict the wife.

The lower court dismissed the complaint, holding that the wife’s pre-existing occupancy of the apartment was not expressly conditioned upon her husband’s employment. The landlord appealed, arguing that the lower court had misinterpreted the statute.

The Appellate Division rejected the landlord’s contention that the lower court had misinterpreted the statute to require that the tenancy and the employment occur simultaneously, and affirmed the lower court’s decision. Under the statute, one of the grounds for good cause is where a landlord has conditioned a tenancy on the tenant’s employment as a superintendent. The statute is inapplicable if the employment and tenancy did not occur at the same time. Here, the wife and her husband were both tenants for several years before the husband became employed as the superintendent. The wife’s tenancy was never conditioned on the husband’s employment. None of the leases she signed were terminated or amended to reflect that her tenancy was conditioned on the husband’s employment relationship with the landlord. Therefore, there existed no good cause to dispossess her under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(m).

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