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Princeton Research Lands, Inc. v. Baron

A-6404-99T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

EMBLEMENTS— The doctrine of emblements, dealing with the right of a tenant to remove growing crops after a lease has terminated without payment of additional rent has been extended to allow a selling farmer to remove crops after a sale of the farm.

The owner of farmland was in default of its mortgage and arranged to sell its land to satisfy its mortgage. The sale was to a farmer and the deal included a seller’s option to reacquire the land within two years at 110 percent of the sale price. The sale took place and the farmer continued to farm the land. The original seller refused to tell the farmer whether it was going to exercise its option until very near the end of the two year period. Consequently, the farmer planted a crop just before the option was exercised. The original owner repurchased the land and refused to allow the farmer to remove and sell its crop. It also alleged that during the two year ownership, the farmer allowed a tree cutting company to remove about 100 trees (which was an insignificant number) and to damage the land by creating large ruts. The Court found in favor of the farmer on both claims. It held that the original landowner, “as the holder of an as yet unexercised option had no interest therein sufficient to ground a cause of action against [the farmer] for damages resulting from waste or damage to real property.” Further, under the law of emblements, absent an agreement to the contrary, a tenant is permitted to remove its crops after its lease has expired and is required to pay rent during that period of time, only if it is dilatory in removing its crop. The Court applied the same principle here. In doing so, it pointed out that the original seller, who had required the land, knew that the land was farmland and that its buyer intended to use the land as such. It didn’t matter that the farmer did not believe that its seller would exercise the option and it didn’t matter that the seller saw the transaction as a financing device. Consequently, the Court stated that “it clearly did not strain logic on policy for a court of equity to preserve [the farmer’s] right to the crop ... under the doctrine of emblements.” A court of equity was clearly entitled “to adapt a principle of equity, such as the doctrine of emblements, for the situation at hand.”


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