Articles Tagged with lawyer

Tenants who smoke in their apartments and in the common areas of their apartment buildings presents a major problem for landlords of multiple dwelling buildings. Inevitably, the smoke from one apartment will leak into neighboring apartments, leading to complaints and possible move-outs from non-smoking tenants, who generally find the smell of cigarette smoke to be abhorrent.  This problem has been largely vitiated, however, as the use of cigarettes has declined substantially during last 30 years.  Unfortunately, the New Jersey legislature will soon create a new problem since it has introduced new legislation to legalize marijuana.  Unlike the other states that have enacted the similarly misguided legislation to legalize marijuana during the last five years, New Jersey has the unique problem of having a significant portion of its population living in multiple dwellings.  Marijuana smoke, like tobacco smoke, causes a substantial annoyance to those who do not choose to use these harmful products.

Historically, the legislature has allowed for the eviction of a tenant for the mere use of marijuana or any illicit drugs in the residential dwelling.  N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(n) provides for the eviction of a tenant who “hasbeenconvictedoforpleadedguiltyto… anactwhich… wouldconstituteanoffenseundertheComprehensive DrugReformActof1987…involvingtheuse,possession,manufacture,dispensingor distributionofacontrolleddangeroussubstance.”  Similarly, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(p) allows for evictions for the same offense, even without a conviction, provided that the offense can be proven by the preponderance of evidence in the landlord tenant action.

However, when marijuana becomes legal, the curative provisions of N.J.S.A 2A:18-61.1, which have been designed, in part, to avoid the problem caused by tenants who use marijuana, will no longer be actionable.  Put simply, a landlord cannot evict a tenant for using a drug, which is no longer illegal.  Therefore, landlords must immediately consider writing new lease provisions in order to avoid these problems before they happen.

justice_srb_2In last month’s blog, our office presented Part One of our discussion on our recommendations to an arbitration board with regard a commercial landlord tenant matter, in which the tenant withheld rent in due to alleged habitability defects.   In this month’s blog, we continue our discussion of our analysis of that matter.

In most cases, the Court is loath to construe the Tenant’s good faith actions to enforce a contract as a default of the contract.   Like most default provisions found in commercial leases, the default in the lease in this matter was not curable. Therefore, in the event that the Tribunal were to declare a default in this matter, it is clear that the Tenant would not only forfeit the tenancy, but would also forfeit the benefit from the substantial investment he made in preparing the premises for the current use. Under the matter of Mandia v. Applegate, 310 N.J. Super 435, 447 (App. Div. 1998), “[l]anguage which may defeat an estate must be strictly construed and always against… a forfeiture.” In the matter of Vineland Shopping Center, Inc. v. DeMarco, 35 N.J. 459, 465 (1961), the Court held that “[i]n a proper case, equity will relieve a Tenant from forfeiture of a lease by reason of non-payment of money where performance has been made.

In the pendent matter, the Tenant defaulted in the lease by failing to pay rent. While the Tenant probably had other mechanisms of compelling the Landlord to make the requested repairs, the Tenant in this matter did not have a lot of good alternatives. Notwithstanding the clear statement contained in the written lease, we were required to determine whether it would be equitable for us to terminate the tenancy of someone who was only trying to compel the Landlord to make repairs that the Landlord was responsible to make. In the matter of Urdang v. Muse, 114 N.J. Super 372 (Cty. Dist. Ct. 1971), the Court held that “the Court may under its equitable powers, as enunciated in Vineland Shopping Center, relieve against forfeiture. This it may do despite the fact that defaults have taken place … The essence of the power to relieve against forfeiture is that equity may intervene to mitigate the inequitable consequences of a breach.”

Our firm was recently retained to provide an amicus brief to an Arbitration Board, for purposes of helping the arbitrator to resolve a commercial landlord tenant dispute, in which the Tenant had stopped paying rent, ostensibly due to habitability defects, affecting both the leased premises and the common area. The Landlord responded by declaring a default in the commercial justice_srb_2lease and promptly sought eviction based on that default. The questions before the arbitrator were the following:

  1. Who bears responsibility for curing habitability defects to the roof and the common area?
  2. Does the Tenant’s failure to pay rent constitute a Default that would result in termination of the tenancy?

dollar_sign-150x150Several years ago, our office published an article examining the subject of cumulative taxation. Under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, state taxes must not subject a taxpayer to an unfair cumulative tax burden.  We reported about the landmark decision involved the Geoffrey Corporation, and the South Carolina regulation that left it subject to double taxation. In the matter of Container Corporation of America v. Franchise Tax Board 463 U.S. 159 (1983), the petitioner successfully persuaded the Court that double taxation is unconstitutional. In ruling in favor of the petitioner, the Court noted that “the principles enunciated in that case should be controlling here: a state tax is unconstitutional if it … creates a substantial risk of international multiple taxation…” Citing Japan Line, Ltd. v. County of Los Angeles, 441 U. S. 434 (1979).

With these cases in mind, we now need to revisit the rules regarding cumulative taxation as they may relate to Public Law 115-97 (Also known as the 2017 Tax Bill).  In the wake of the revised tax code, some taxpayers are asking us why there was a need to revise the tax structure, which had ostensibly worked for more than 30 years. While avoiding partisan politics as much as possible, we explain that eight years of reckless government spending under the Obama administration has left our nation with an insurmountable amount of public and foreign debt. On the day that President Obama took office, the national debt was $10.6 Trillion. By the day President Obama left office, the national debt had increased by nearly 70% to $18 Trillion!

Unfortunately, we are all responsible for repaying this debt (along with interest). In an effort to reduce this debt, the Trump Administration and members of the legislature went to work on revising the Tax Code. The new tax bill contained several controversial provisions. One of the most unpopular aspects of the new Tax Code was a reduction to the corporate tax rate, which was inserted in order to ensure that American businesses would continue to thrive and keep Americans employed.  We offer no opinion or prognostication as to whether this strategy will work. Rather, our focus in this article is only on the portion of the bill that relates to deductions for State and local taxes.

dollar-sign-1317230-m-150x150In 2018, many towns in Bergen County, New Jersey will undergo re-assessments. The municipalities affected include Carlstadt, Closter, Cresskill, East Rutherford, Hackensack, Hasbrouck Heights, Little Ferry, Moonachie, North Arlington, Oradell, Saddle Brook, South Hackensack, Teterboro, Westwood, and Woodcliff Lake. Additionally, the town of Saddle River will be conducting a revaluation. Revaluations and re-assessments differ only in that revaluations require the services of an outside company, whereas re-assessments are conducted by the assessor’s office. In both cases, however, the new assessments cause a great deal of confusion for some taxpayers, who mistakenly believe that the sudden increases in their assessments will result in a large increase in their tax bills. However, this notion is usually not correct.

Towns that have not been revalued or re-assessed in several years generally have assessments that are based on a small portion of their true market values. As a result of the under-assessments, the municipality annually increases its tax rates in order to satisfy the demands of the municipal budget. Due to the time and expense of conducting a revaluation, a town will generally wait several years before doing so. Then, when a revaluation or re-assessment occurs, one of the goals is to raise assessments up to close to 100% of the true market values of the properties. Consequently, the tax rates will drop commensurately so that, aside from some modest budget increases, the total tax revenue for the town is about the same as it was prior to the revaluation. Therefore, the average taxpayer will not experience any positive or negative effect from the revaluation.

Notwithstanding the arithmetic of the process, there are some taxpayers whose tax burden may change dramatically due to market trends in specific neighborhoods of a town that may result in the assessments of some properties increasing more than others. Therefore, while the net effect of a revaluation or re-assessment is ostensibly “tax neutral,” there will usually be a few taxpayers who will benefit from the revaluation or re-assessment while others are negatively impacted.

For the past 16 years, our office has been concentrating on just two areas of law – Evictions and Tax Appeals. Our eviction practice, which now spans most of New Jersey, has helped residential and commercial landlords with the removal of more than 10,000 tenants. Our tax appeal practice has been successful in the reductions of assessments by more than $67,000,000. With our county tax appeals concluding by July of each year, and the new assessments not being released yet, we have fielded numerous calls from our clients over the past 4 months, inquiring about tax appeals for 2018. The following information pertains to the release of new assessments and filing deadlines.

Monmouth County

We note that most municipalities in Monmouth County are still subject to the Assessment Demonstration Program (ADP), which often requires re-inspection of houses and buildings, and inevitably leads to yearly adjustments in assessments for the majority of Monmouth County residents. Therefore, even taxpayers who previously had their assessments reduced may find that their assessments for 2018 have been raised again. Accordingly, we have been advising all taxpayers affected by ADP to wait until their 2018 assessments are released before considering whether a Tax Appeal would be recommended. During the next few weeks, all Monmouth County residents should receive their new assessments for 2018. If you feel that your 2018 assessment exceeds the fair market value of your property, please contact us to discuss whether a tax appeal would be worthwhile pursuing. Please keep in mind that the Appeal Calendar for Monmouth County starts on November 18 and ends on January 17. Some towns, including Belmar and Spring Lake have received extensions until February 23. For information on any specific filing deadlines, please contact the Monmouth County Tax Board at (732) 431-7404.