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Roland-Leopoid v. Khoury

304 N.J. Super. 372, 700 A.2d 910 (Law Div. 1997)

LEASES; NOTICES—The statutory requirement that a Notice to Quit must be served by personal delivery is satisfied by use of certified mail because the postal carrier qualifies as someone designated by landlord to effectuate personal delivery.

A landlord sent a notice by certified mail to a tenant to quit and surrender the premises. The notice was technically sufficient and was received by the tenant. The issue was whether a statutory requirement of personal delivery was satisfied through service by certified mail. The relevant portion of the applicable statute states that a holdover tenant may be removed after demand made and written notice given by the landlord or his agent for delivery of possession. The notice shall be served personally either upon the tenant or a person in possession by giving him a copy of the notice or by leaving a copy at his usual place of abode with a member of his family above the age of 14 years. If notice cannot be given in this manner, the statute allows service upon any person at the premises over the age of 14 or the posting of the notice upon the premises, if necessary. The tenant claimed notice was insufficient since it was not personally delivered. The landlord argued that “personal service” includes service by anyone designated by the landlord, including the letter carrier that delivered the certified notice. The landlord further claimed that the intent and spirit of the statute, which is simply to provide notice to a tenant, was satisfied by virtue of the tenant’s actual receipt of the letter.

The Court found that the statute explicitly required personal service. The Court looked to the purpose of notice, and found case law to support a finding that, where the statute does not direct that personal service be made by any particular individual, service by certified mail is satisfactory as long as the notice is sufficient and there is evidence of actual delivery. One case even stated expressly that the depositing of the notice with an agency of the federal government for purposes of having it delivered, and the actual delivery of the notice, constitutes personal service. The Court found there to be no practical difference between the landlord (or an agent) delivering the notice to the tenant and a postal carrier delivering the same notice. Once the notice has been signed for, due process has been satisfied. The Court further held that when a literal reading of a statute leads to a result not in accord with the purposes of a statute, “the spirit of the law should control over the literal language.”


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