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Whitney v. Szulaczkowski

A-4532-06T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

LANDLORD-TENANT; EVICTION — An eviction proceeding is only designed to regain possession of leased premises and because money damages may not be awarded in a summary dispossess action, a settlement agreement in the eviction hearing stating that “the tenant shall pay no money” only releases the tenant from future rent obligations but not from the payment of past due rent.

A landlord and tenant in an eviction proceeding entered into a consent judgment of possession. The tenant prepared a one paragraph document “that confirmed return of the keys, confirmed no visible damages to the premise[s], and ‘released [the tenant] from payment of any rent and for liability for any damages.’” The landlord then sued its tenant for rent that had accrued, but remained unpaid, prior to the date of eviction. The tenant claimed that the release extinguished the rental obligation, relying on the condition that stated “[t]he [t]enant shall pay no money.” The lower court rejected that argument, taking note that an eviction proceeding is only designed to regain possession of leased premises and money damages may not be awarded in a summary dispossess action. The lower court also held that the release terminated future rent obligations but did not release the tenant from payment of past due rent.

The tenant appealed, but to no avail. The Appellate Division took note that as long as the facts found by the lower court “are supported by adequate, substantial and credible evidence in the record,” it would not disturb them. Here, it found that the lower court had met that standard and the money judgment in favor of the landlord was allowed to stand.


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