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Su v. Stephens

A-1176-04T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2006) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; DAMAGES—If a landlord does not present an appellate court with a record of the proceedings below, even submitting sworn third party statements attesting as to the amount of damages caused by a tenant will not permit the appellate court to hear the appeal.

A landlord attempted to evict its tenant for failure to pay rent. It obtained a judgment for possession and may have caused a warrant of removal to be issued. Yet, the landlord allowed the tenant to stay till the end of the month. Around that time, the tenant was granted a three month hardship stay. During the stay, the landlord attempted a lockout with uncertain success. Nevertheless, shortly thereafter, the tenant was either removed from the apartment or left of her own volition. Finally, eight months after the stay was to have expired, the lower court gave the landlord an award for unpaid rent and denied the landlord’s request for compensation for damage to the apartment.

The Appellate Division struggled with the landlord’s “virtually incomprehensible” brief and the “woefully inadequate” record. Filing his appeal pro se, the landlord acknowledged that the lower court’s decision concerning the rent was correct, but he asserted that evidence existed to show its tenant had damaged the apartment. Accordingly, the Appellate Division could only assume that the landlord sought an appeal of the lower court’s denial of compensatory relief for damages to the apartment by the tenant during her occupancy.

The Court cited to the principle that it could not properly review an appeal without a sufficient record. Explaining that the burden falls on an appellant to produce relevant documents, the Court noted that the landlord failed to provide a court order, a transcript of any proceedings, the pleadings or any other essential parts of the record. The landlord did, however, provide three sworn statements relating to repairs made to the apartment. But without an adequate record, the Court could not determine whether that evidence could properly be reviewed. Accordingly, the absence of an adequate record that would have allowed the Court to understand what took place militated the dismissal of the landlord’s appeal.

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