New Jersey Landlords who Acquire Title from Their Tenants May Now Face Sanctions Under Consumer Fraud Act

house 4.jpgIn a previous blog, we discussed some of the potential consequences for landlords who have acquired title from their tenants. The main issue at hand, was the fact that landlords who have acquired title from their tenants may lose the advantage of having their eviction actions heard in Landlord Tenant Court. The consequences, however, may have just gotten worse. In a recent decision, in Bergen County Superior Court, decided by Judge Ellen Koblitz, landlords who acquire title from their tenants, with the promise of eventually selling the property back to the tenants, may be exposed to the harsh penalties of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. Under New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, the alleged victim may be entitled to treble damages as well as attorney fees and other sanctions in the event that the Court finds a violation.
In the pendent matter, Ricardo Maldonado, a self proclaimed business man, with a ninth grade education rode around with a sign on his car that said, “I buy houses.” One such house that Maldonado purchased was owned by a Garfield couple. Maldonado promised to hold the home for the couple for one year and then allow the couple to purchase it back. After one year, Maldonado refused to allow the couple to purchase back their home. A Court action ensued in Bergen County Chancery Division. In ruling on this case, Judge Koblitz was not convinced by Maldonado’s argument that he was not covered by the Consumer Fraud Act.