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Terhune Courts v. Sgambati

October 13, 1978

TERHUNE COURTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARY SGAMBATI, DEFENDANT



Huot, J.d.c.

Huot

This case raises for the first time the issue of whether a proposed change in a lease, which would prohibit pets, is reasonable within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(i).

Defendant has been a tenant in Apartment 201A of Terhune Courts Apartments, Lodi, New Jersey, for six years. Plaintiff has been landlord of this complex for four years.

The initial lease ran from July 1, 1972 to June 30, 1973, and a "no pet" provision was stricken and initialled by a previous landlord. The lease running from July 1, 1974, to June 30, 1975 contains a "no pet" provision which remains unaltered. There are no other leases in evidence; however, it is undisputed that defendant resided as a year-to-year tenant until July 1, 1977, when she thereafter began a month-to-month tenancy.

During her six years in Apartment 201A defendant has owned a pet collie dog. There has been no attempt to conceal the dog and plaintiff-landlord had at no time previous to July 24, 1978 attempted to enforce the "no pet" provision contained in the 1974 lease.

Indeed, had the landlord based his present claim upon enforcement of this provision, defendant's argument for estoppel would be most persuasive.

Rather than seek enforcement of a past or present clause, plaintiff relies on the 1974 residential amendments; N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1. Under this statute a landlord is entitled to summary recovery of his property where

The landlord or owner proposes, at the termination of a lease, reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease,

including specifically any change in the term thereof, which the tenant, after written notice refuses to accept. [ N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(i)]

In the instant case plaintiff landlord notified the tenant on July 24, 1978 that it no longer would permit pets. This change was to take place upon the signing of a new lease at the end of defendant's tenancy. It should be noted that the landlord complied with the notice requirements of the statute. It is clear that neither waiver nor estoppel may apply where plaintiff does not base his claim on a past or present covenant and, therefore, does not seek to enforce a right he may have waived by past inaction.

Defendant argues that plaintiff should be prohibited from incorporating a "no pet" clause in the new lease because of its prior permission for pets evidenced by its knowing failure to enforce such covenant in prior leases. Her conclusion, thus, is that once a landlord waives a lease provision, he is forever prohibited from inserting such provision in any subsequent lease with the same tenant.

Such an approach ignores the very nature of the landlord-tenant relationship. A tenant's rights in property end upon completion of the tenancy. The tenant's relationship with the land and the landlord ceases upon termination of ...


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