Skip to main content



Tannenbaum v. Frantzis

A-609-03T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2004) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION; RES JUDICATA—Matters disposed of in summary dispossess proceedings are not res judicata in subsequent actions between the landlord and tenant, even over the same subject matter.

A landlord brought an initial action for eviction against his tenant, who sought rent abatement. The lower court ordered the landlord to make repairs to the property and required the tenant to pay the back rent and part of the security deposit. A later action arose when the landlord sued for eviction because the tenant withheld rent on the grounds that the landlord had failed to comply with the previous order. Prior to that trial, the lower court ordered the tenant to pay the rent into the court, and ordered the landlord to make the necessary inspections and repairs. Eventually, the matter was resolved with a six month rent abatement. Within a year, the tenant again withheld his rent, claiming that the landlord had again failed to fully comply with the earlier order. In response, the landlord again sought eviction. The tenant paid its rent into court and sought a further abatement.

This third action came before a third judge who held that the case had been “concluded” by the previous order granting partial rent abatement. He considered that order to be “the law of the case on all issues between the[se] parties as to habitability [previously] raised.” Consequently, the lower court ordered that the rent be turned over to the landlord. On appeal, the tenant argued that the lower court had erred when it ruled that his habitability defense was res judicata. The Appellate Division stated that the tenant’s most recent complaint was only one of the many reasons why he had withheld rent in the earlier actions. Consequently, the Court had no way of knowing if the prior abatement order was based on the current issues or, even if it was a factor, how much of the abatement was attributed to it. Therefore, the doctrine of res judicata was clearly inapplicable. Also, “matter[s] disposed of in summary dispossess actions are not res judicata in subsequent actions between a landlord and tenant, even over the same subject matter. Thus, the Appellate Division reversed the lower court’s decision, and remanded the case to be decided on its merits.


MEISLIK & MEISLIK
66 Park Street • Montclair, New Jersey 07042
tel: 973-783-3000 • fax: 973-744-5757 • info@meislik.com