Articles Tagged with tenancy

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.

In a previous article, we discussed the premise that acceptance of rent, following the termination date set forth in a Notice to Quit, would constitute a “waiver” of that Notice, hence requiring the Court to disregard that Notice and dismiss any subsequent eviction action based upon that Notice. To support this theory, Courts often rely upon the famous case of Carteret Properties v. Variety Donuts, Inc.49 NJ 116 (1967)

By way of New Jersey statutory background, all evictions except those based upon non-payment of rent require the service of a Notice to Quit upon the tenant prior to the filing of an eviction action.  In the context of a residential rental, evictions based on lease violations also require the service of a Notice to Cease in advance of the Notice to Quit.  For residential evictions, it is the Anti-Eviction Act that determines which claims require a Notice to Cease, as well as determining the length of the Notice period for the Notice to Quit.  However, for commercial tenants, it is the lease that determines the nature and length of any notice of default that must be served upon the tenant in advance of the Notice to Quit.

Unlike residential tenants, who can only be evicted for good cause, as defined by the Anti-Eviction Act, a commercial tenant can be evicted upon the expiration of a lease, without the necessity of the landlord showing any good cause. However, in these cases, the Landlord must still serve the tenant with a Notice to Quit prior to the commencement of the eviction action.  The Carteret Properties matter involved a commercial tenant, who was alleged to have violated a lease covenant.   The landlord had served the tenant with a Notice of Default, and subsequently filed a Notice to Quit.  Much of the Court’s decision in Carteret Properties was based on the Court’s determination that the landlord’s Notice to Quit was defective.