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Housing Authority v. Isler

Decided: April 5, 1974.

HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF BAYONNE, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
HELEN ISLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Conford, Handler and Meanor. The opinion of the court was delivered by Conford, P.J.A.D.

Conford

Defendant, a tenant of an apartment of plaintiff Bayonne Housing Authority (Authority), appeals from a judgment of dispossess entered pursuant to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53. It is unclear whether the proceedings were premised on paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of that section. We conclude that whichever is regarded as operative here, the judgment must be set aside for absence of jurisdiction in the county district court.

Paragraph (a) allows dispossess where the tenant holds over after expiration of his term and written demand for possession is served. Paragraph (c) applies in four types of situations of which (1) is where the tenant is so disorderly as to destroy the peace and quiet of other tenants in the house, and (4) is where the tenant commits any breach of a lease provision which the agreement stipulates gives the landlord a right of reentry therefor. In any case falling under paragraph (c) the landlord must serve a written notice of termination of the tenancy upon the tenant, stating the cause of the termination and a demand for removal within three days of service of the notice.

Plaintiff landlord is a public housing agency financed in part by the Federal Government through the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). As such it is subject to and bound by federal laws

pertaining to HUD and its regulations specifying the rights and duties of the tenants and the housing authority as to rent, maintenance, manner of occupancy by tenants and termination of such occupancy, among other things. Brown v. Milwaukee Housing Authority, 471 F. 2d 63 (7 Cir. 1972); Milwaukee Housing Authority v. Mosby, 53 Wis. 2d 275, 192 N.W. 2d 913 (Sup. Ct. 1972). See also, Lee v. Elizabeth Housing Authority, 119 N.J. Super. 72 (Cty. Ct. 1972).

Plaintiff had apparently been having trouble with defendant in relation to complaints by other tenants of annoying actions by defendant and her children. It wrote her requesting that she appear before a tenant grievance board of the Authority on February 27, 1973. At that time a hearing was conducted during which testimony was given concerning her actions and she denied the charges. At the conclusion of the hearing she was given an adverse oral decision. Neither the content of the notice to appear nor the precise nature of the decision was established beyond the fact that the board "asked" the defendant "to vacate."

On March 13, 1973 defendant was served with a written notice signed by the executive director of the Authority calling upon her to vacate by March 20, 1973 and stating that her "tenancy [was] being terminated" for the reason that she and her children were violating the lease by "unreasonable disturbance" of other tenants in various specified respects. The tenancy complaint was filed in the county district court on May 10, 1973. The foregoing facts were stated in the complaint and it was alleged therein that defendant's actions constituted a breach of the lease.

HUD has issued an administrative circular, RHM 7465.8, containing "requirements and recommendations to be reflected in tenant dwelling leases for low-rent public housing projects." Included is a detailed specification of the mandated subject-matter content of tenant leases, including the circumstances under which management may terminate the lease and the attendant procedure. The parties hereto entered

into a lease which appears to us to comply with the circular. In paragraphs 5, 7 and 9 management agrees:

5. To give Tenant thirty (30) days written notice prior to termination of this lease. Such written notice shall be in clear and understandable terms, and shall include the following:

a. a full statement of the reason for the action, including reference to applicable regulations and the alleged facts ...


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