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Brower v. Glen Wild Lake Co.

Decided: December 21, 1962.

ROGER E. BROWER AND ALICIA L. BROWER, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GLEN WILD LAKE COMPANY, A NEW JERSEY CORPORATION, DEFENDANT



Herbert, J.s.c.

Herbert

[77 NJSuper Page 578] The defendant was organized in 1917 for the purpose of establishing a summer colony in Bloomingdale, Passaic County. A tract of land was acquired, the pond area upon it was enlarged into a lake of approximately 111 acres, lots were laid out and a practice of leasing lots to

tenants was inaugurated. It was part of the plan that a tenant, rather than the defendant, would be responsible for putting up and maintaining buildings upon a leased lot. Down to the present time the basic scheme of leasing has been continued: residents at Glen Wild Lake still hold leases from the defendant, even though some of those residents have built valuable all-year homes in place of the simple "camps" which were contemplated when the colony was started.

The plaintiff Roger Brower became a tenant in 1936. The lease he signed was, in form, a booklet printed for the defendant's use. It was dated December 15, 1936 and provided for a term starting on that date and running until April 1, 1957. The rent was only $150 a year but the tenant was required to pay the taxes. Roger Brower and the plaintiff Alicia L. Brower married in 1942 and some time later her name was inserted in the lease to make her a cotenant. The premises let were lots 111A and 112, as shown on a map then on file in the defendant's office. Originally the building on these lots was a simple summer cottage. In recent years, however, the plaintiffs have constructed a valuable and attractive house which they occupy as their home through all four seasons of the year. The property has a lake frontage and, at the other end of the two lots, a frontage upon a private road.

The principal objective of the plaintiffs in this case is to obtain a perpetual renewal of the leasehold created by the lease of December 15, 1936. They contend that the lease as written calls for an infinite series of renewals and hence a perpetual term; or if that view of the language used be unacceptable, they say they are in any event entitled to a reformation of the 1936 lease which will give them the benefit of a clause for perpetual renewal.

The lease of December 15, 1936 contains, among other grants to the tenant, the following:

"5. The right to renew this lease for a further term of -- Ten -- years. Said renewal to be on a basis of not over 3 per Foot Lot Frontage in all other respects upon the same terms and conditions as are herein set forth, provided that notice of such renewal be given in

writing to the party of the first part at least three months before the expiration of the term thereof, and provided further, that the rental as agreed upon shall be paid in advance before the beginning of such renewal term."

After some initial dispute as to whether a timely and effective notice to renew had been given, the defendant offered the plaintiffs a renewal lease for a ten-year term commencing as of April 1, 1957, at a rental based on $3.50 for each foot of lake frontage; but the paragraph quoted above has been omitted from the offered lease and no other provision for a further renewal has been used in its place. In the light of the plaintiffs' aim to get a lease-hold in perpetuity, their unwillingness to accept the new lease proffered by the defendant would be expected, and they have not accepted it.

It is argued for the plaintiffs that a ten-year renewal which, in the words of the paragraph quoted above, is "in all other respects upon the same terms and conditions as are herein set forth," must include the same renewal clause. The argument is unsound. Vice-Chancellor Stevenson disposed of it in Feigenspan v. Popowska , 75 N.J. Eq. 342, 345 (Ch. 1909), where he said:

"This general covenant to renew, while calling for a lease of similar tenor to the original lease, does not require that the renewal lease shall contain a similar covenant to renew. The authorities all agree upon this exception, and the reason for it is obvious."

The vice chancellor did not go on to cite any of the authorities examined by him, but counsel for Glen Wild Lake Company have assembled a long list of pertinent ones, including Winslow v. Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Co. , 188 U.S. 646, 23 S. Ct. 443, 47 L. Ed. 635 (1903); 51 C.J.S., Landlord & Tenant , ยง 61, p. 605; 32 Am. ...


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