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Mintz v. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.

July 28, 1977

NELSON K. MINTZ AND EDITH KOLOVSKY, TRUSTEES UNDER THE WILL OF GEORGE J. MINTZ, ALVIN R. MINTZ AND NELSON K. MINTZ, LANDLORDS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, A NEW YORK CORPORATION, TENANT, DEFENDANT



MacKenzie, J.c.c., Temporarily Assigned.

Mackenzie

Plaintiffs, Nelson K. Mintz and Edith Kolovsky, trustees under the will of George J. Mintz, Alvin R. Mintz and Nelson K. Mintz (hereinafter landlord) seek possession of certain premises from defendant Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (tenant) pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53(a).

The leased premises owned by the landlord consist of a one-story office building and parking area at 209-211 South Street, Morristown, New Jersey. Tenant is presently in possession

of these premises, as it has been since 1956 under prior leases.

There is sufficient credible evidence that, by renewal agreement dated December 1, 1976, tenant leased the premises for a term of six months commencing January 1, 1977 and terminating on June 30, 1977, at the monthly rate of $4,000. By letter dated June 27, 1977 the landlord notified tenant that the premises were to be leased to a third party. Tenant did not vacate the premises on or before June 30, 1977, and continued to remain in possession. On July 1, 1977 a notice and demand for possession was served on the tenant demanding that it deliver immediate possession of the premises, the term of its lease having expired on June 30, 1977. This summary dispossess proceeding was instituted as a result of tenant's noncompliance with landlord's demand.*fn1

N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 provides for summary dispossession in certain circumstances. Whether this case is one in which relief is available pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 depends upon whether applicable statutory notice requirements, which are prerequisites to maintenance of such an action, were satisfied, and upon the characterization of the relationship between plaintiffs and defendant. Plaintiffs assert that the tenant was not entitled to any prior notice to quit the leased premises; the tenant claims it was entitled to six months' prior notice to quit. Plaintiffs assert that the tenant is but a trespasser or at most a tenant at sufferance; tenant claims its status is that of a hold-over tenant, entitled, as such, to a notice to quit. The court finds that tenant was not entitled to any prior notice to quit the leased premises. The court further finds that its status after the expiration of the lease was that of a tenant at sufferance.

N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56 provides that proof of notice to quit is a prerequisite to any judgment under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56 enumerates particular types of tenancies and sets forth the corresponding requisite notice to quit for each such particular type of tenancy.

It should be noted that N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56 applies only to renewable tenancies. This statute is not applicable to fixed-term, nonrenewable tenancies. If N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56(c) were read to apply to fixed-term, nonrenewable tenancies, as defendant suggests, the incongruous result would be that a landlord would have to give his tenant notice to quit immediately upon the execution of the lease. Such an illogical result could not have been contemplated by the Legislature in enacting or amending in 1975 N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56, which represents essentially a tenant's statutory due process protection.

Tenants under renewable leases might be said to have a certain expectancy of continued occupancy, and thus are entitled to sufficient notice before being removed from the leasehold. The notice requirement prevents undue hardship to such tenants resulting from unexpected nonrenewal of their leases. It may be said that the expectancy triggers the notice requirement.

The same reasoning does not apply to tenants under fixed-term, nonrenewable leases. Where a tenant has entered into a fixed-term, nonrenewable lease he has contracted for possession of the premises for only a given period of time. If he includes notice provisions in the lease contract, he has protected himself to some degree. If he does not, he has implicitly bargained for a limited possession. He has no expectancy beyond that limited possession. There is no reason for the law to protect him from what is merely the natural termination of his contract. If he has not bargained for ...


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