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Sanguiliano v. Walker

A-3074-10T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION — Even though a residential tenant may have already vacated the premises, a court, in the interest of justice and notwithstanding issues of technical mootness, may rule in setting aside an eviction where a lasting affect of the eviction on a tenant may be to adversely impact the tenant’s ability to obtain future housing elsewhere.

A landlord sought to evict its residential tenant based on the tenant’s “alleged disorderly conduct in the premises and violations of the landlord’s rules and regulations.” Prior to filing the eviction complaint, the landlord sent a “Notice to Cease” stating that the tenant “[M]ay be evicted” for any one or more items on a the list of seven included within the notice. Following service of the Notice to Quit, the landlord served its tenant with a “Notice to Quit.” That notice said that the tenant’s lease would be terminated as the end of the given month. “The only explanation [the landlord] gave for this termination was: ‘See attached violations of lease’” as listed in the Notice to Cease. The attachment was the same Notice to Cease that had previously been sent. Thus, according to the Court, the Notice to Quit “did not identify any ‘continued’ disorderly conduct or violation of the landlord’s rules and regulations committed by [the tenant] after her initial receipt of the ‘notice to cease.’”

At the eviction trial, the tenant failed to appear because “she was then a resident of an in-patient facility that treats alcoholism and drug dependency.” The lower court adjourned the trial but the tenant failed to appear on the adjourned date and a default judgment for possession was entered.

Almost a year a later, the tenant, now represented by counsel, “applied to the court to vacate the default judgment and to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain it.” The lower court denied the motion, and the tenant appealed.

Even though the tenant had long since vacated the apartment, the Appellate Division, finding that the Notice to Quit was defective, vacated the default judgment. It did so because it was “satisfied that the record of [the tenant’s] eviction could have an adverse impact upon her future opportunities to rent housing, which [would give] her a sufficient interest to pursue this appeal notwithstanding its technical mootness.”

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