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Sedrak v. TWE Corp.

A-1310-02T5 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2003) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION—Where a landlord is not the one named on a lease, it is necessary to produce a deed or an assignment of the lease at an eviction hearing, but producing one at an earlier proceeding in the same court will satisfy that requirement.

A landlord successfully evicted an automobile repair facility based upon non-payment of rent. The tenant applied to the Appellate Division for emergent relief to stay application of the judgment, but such relief was denied. Three days later, a stay application was denied by the Supreme Court. The tenant then appealed the eviction on at least eight grounds and the Appellate Division rejected the appeal, commenting only on the following. The tenant argued that the Special Civil Part did not have jurisdiction because the landlord failed to prove that it had title to the property by producing a copy of its deed. An applicable statute requires the landlord to prove, by lease or other evidence, the landlord’s right to possession of the premises. If the landlord is not actually named on a lease, it needs to provide a deed or a document of assignment. At the summary dispossess hearing, the landlord produced the lease, but admitted that it did not have the assignment or the deed. It pointed out, however, that the assignment had been produced at an earlier proceeding for non-payment of rent. Under those circumstances, the Court was satisfied “that the landlord’s failure to produce the assignment was not critical to the determination by the judge that the Special Civil Part had jurisdiction.”

The tenant also claimed that its lease was illegal or acquired by fraud. Those contentions were not cognizable in a summary dispossess action. The tenant argued that it was denied the right to raise that defense. The Appellate Division pointed out that although that was not a proper defense, the tenant could prosecute a collateral claim for legal or equitable relief in an appropriate court.

Lastly, the tenant claimed that the landlord used out-of-date forms for the complaint and summons and failed to give three days’ notice prior to removal, pursuant to the Fair Eviction Notice Act. The Appellate Division pointed out that when the tenant voluntarily appeared at the summary dispossess hearing, it waived any claim of a defect in process. Further, the three day notice provision applies to residential leases, not commercial leases.

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