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Levine v. Seidel

Decided: May 7, 1974.

CEIL LEVINE, AGENT FOR ELMWOOD VILLAGE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
CHARLES R. SEIDEL, MARY MORRIS, NAT MOSER, JOHN ECONOMOU, JOHN COSGROVE, JOSEPH BRAUN, RONALD YOUNG, ANNA FREED, CLAUDE J. FARIA, JOHN EITEL, DON SUMMERFORD, MANUEL CAMPOS, HAROLD BARDROFF, ROSARIO MARICCHIOLO, DONALS FORREN, HENDRIK HUMMEL, VINCENT BAIARDI, AND MEYER PERLMUTTER, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Collester, Lynch and Michels. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, J.A.D.

Michels

[128 NJSuper Page 226] This is an appeal by plaintiff rental agent for Elmwood Village, an apartment complex located

in East Paterson, New Jersey, from judgments entered in 19 dispossess proceedings which were consolidated for trial in the Bergen County District Court.

Plaintiff instituted these summary dispossess actions against defendants for nonpayment of rent for the months of April and May 1973. Defendants were all month-to-month tenants in the apartment complex. The record establishes that sometime in 1972 complaints were made by the tenants to the Internal Revenue Service charging that the rents fixed by Elmwood Village were in excess of the rents established under the Price Commission Rules and Regulations promulgated under the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970. As a result of the complaints, investigation was undertaken by the Internal Revenue Service. While the record is rather sparse, apparently an agreement was arrived at between the landlord and the Internal Revenue Service pursuant to which a refund or adjustment in the rents was made for the period through January 31, 1973. Specifically, with respect to defendant Seidel the amount of the "adjustment/roll-back" was indicated by the District Director of the Internal Revenue Service to be $144, and a check in that amount was sent by Elmwood Village to Seidel.

The trial court considered evidence of this adjustment or roll-back and determined that the refund represented an overcharge in rent for the period involved and reduced the monthly rent of each defendant tenant by a proportionate amount of the refund. The court further ruled that even though the rent regulations expired on January 10, 1973, the monthly rent for April and May did not automatically revert to the prior level, and plaintiff's attempt to raise it was invalid by reason of her failure to give proper notice to the tenants. The court thereupon determined the arrearages due from each defendant and entered an order for possession, but gave each defendant three days within which to pay the amount of the arrearages.

Plaintiff appeals, contending that (1) defendants failed to establish that the amount of the rent was less than that

claimed by plaintiff and therefore she was not required to give notice to the tenants in order to be entitled to the original monthly rental; (2) the trial judge erred in considering the settlement arrived at between the landlord and the Internal Revenue Service in reaching the conclusion that the rent charged defendants was in violation of the federal regulations and in determining the amount of rent for each apartment, and (3) the county district court did not have jurisdiction or power to reform, reduce or modify the original rental agreement. Our careful study of plaintiff's brief indicates that the actual thrust of her appeal is that the court erred in considering evidence of the refund or adjustment in rents agreed upon by Elmwood Village with the Internal Revenue Service in determining the monthly rental and the amount of arrearages due from each defendant.

Summary actions for possession may be instituted in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53, which in part provides:

Any lessee or tenant at will or at sufferance, or for a part of a year, or for 1 or more years, of any houses, buildings, lands or tenements, and the assigns, undertenants or legal representatives of such tenant or lessee, may be removed from such premises by the county district court of the county within which such premises are situated, in an action in the following cases:

b. Where such person shall hold over after a default in the payment of rent, pursuant to the agreement under which the premises are held.

N.J.S.A. 2A:18-59 provides:

Proceedings had by virtue of this article shall not be appealable except on the ground of lack of jurisdiction. The landlord, however, shall remain liable in a civil action ...


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