[3 NJSuper Page 411] This is an action by 220 tenants against their landlord to restrain the latter from enforcing its demand for a uniform $5 increase in the monthly rent, payable by each plaintiff under his respective lease with the defendant, and to restrain the defendant from re-entering and resuming possession, by summary proceedings or otherwise, of the respective premises demised to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs further seek a construction of their leases and a declaratory judgment determining whether or not the defendant-lessor has
the right to increase the rentals and whether the plaintiffs are obliged to pay such rental increases.
The cause is submitted for a decision on a written stipulation of facts and upon such allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint as are admitted by the defendant's answer. The admitted facts are:
In the spring of 1947 the defendant company was engaged in completing a large garden apartment project known as "Stuyvesant Town" and located in Union Township, in this State. The project consisted of many buildings and many hundreds of apartments. Some of the apartments consisted of 3 1/2 rooms and others of 4 1/2 rooms. Some of the buildings were completed in May and June of 1947 and others in later months. The erection of the project was aided with mortgage funds guaranteed or insured by the Federal Housing Administration and, as charged in the complaint and admitted in the answer, preference and priority of opportunity of occupancy was to be given to veterans of World War II and their immediate families, and "said Federal Housing Administration also fixed limitation on rents to be charged." The rents initially approved by the Federal Housing Administration were a monthly rental of $73 for each 3 1/2 room unit or apartment and a monthly rental of $85 for each 4 1/2 room unit or apartment. Those are the rentals which uniformly are stated in the respective leases held by the plaintiffs, the only variance in rental being the differential between the larger and the smaller apartments.
In view of the controversy, it is important to classify the 220 tenants according to the time their leases went into effect. The parties themselves made such classification in their stipulation of facts filed herein. Those classes are three in number and are as follows:
Class I: 37 leases held by 37 tenants, each of which leases was executed prior to July 1, 1947.
Class II: 31 leases held by 31 tenants, each of which leases was dated prior to July 1, 1947, but was executed subsequent to July 1, 1947, and possession thereunder taken subsequent to that date.
Class III: 152 leases held by 152 tenants, each of which leases was dated and executed after July 1, 1947.
The leases of all plaintiffs are identical in form, varying only in respect of date, name of tenant, identification of apartment, and stipulated rental. Each lease is for a term of five years. Attached to the stipulation of facts are schedules furnishing the names and details of the three groups of tenants.
It is admitted that all of the plaintiffs are either veterans of World War II or that members of their immediate families are such.
The entire controversy between these parties springs from paragraph 5, which paragraph is present in the lease of each ...