Cassidy, J.J.D.R.C. (temporarily assigned).
This novel case deals with the interpretation of the recent statutory amendment to the Landlord-Tenant Law concerning conversion of a multi-family apartment building to a condominium.
There are no New Jersey cases directly on point.
Plaintiff Lawrence Fishman brought a summary dispossess proceeding against defendant Arlene Pollack based on three counts: (1) nonpayment of rent for April, May and June 1978; (2) as a holdover pursuant to notice to quit and (3) for willful damage and destruction.
The proofs were: in March 1978 the premises at 2185 Lemoine Avenue, Fort Lee, New Jersey, were in the process
of being converted into condominiums. On March 11, 1978 plaintiff purchased Apartment 7-I at those premises, as well as 7-J, the apartment he was then living in. Defendant is the tenant in 7-I and had been for many years previous to the proposed conversion. A prospectus detailing the condominium conversion was sent to both parties. This is an eight-story apartment building containing well over 100 apartments.
On March 16, 1978 plaintiff delivered a notice to quit and demand for possession to defendant, terminating defendant's month-to-month lease as of June 1, 1978. On June 2 plaintiff brought his summary dispossess action. Defendant made a motion to transfer the case to Superior Court. This was granted by order of the assignment judge dated July 6, 1978, which also directed defendant to pay plaintiff $1,365 "forthwith" and rent of $455 monthly until further order of the court. Subsequently, the case was heard before this court.
Plaintiff's first argument is based on certain case law, in particular, Bradley v. Rapp , 132 N.J. Super. 429 (App. Div. 1975), which held that a person purchasing a two-family home for the express purpose of immediately residing therein renders the premises "owner-occupied." Plaintiff contends that this ruling affords preferential treatment to owners who seek to remove a tenant in order that the purchaser may occupy the apartment for his own personal occupancy. He also cites Floral Park Tenants v. Project Holding Inc. , 152 N.J. Super. 582 (Ch. Div. 1977), which held that even if literal reading of the eviction statute prohibited removal of a tenant under the facts there presented, "the spirit of the Statute must prevail." However, the Bradley case deals specifically with a two-family home. Bradley is not applicable because this conversion covers an apartment building with many more units than a two-family dwelling.
The legal rights of the tenant who is already living in the apartment house are controlled, when conversion
occurs, by the provisions of the statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 et seq. The provisions of this act, referred to as the Eviction for Cause Law, must be followed. The next contentions are based on this law.
Plaintiff claims that he offered defendant "comparable housing," thus complying with N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11, and that defendant refused same. The parties' testimony at trial was contradictory as to whether the housing offered was "comparable." However, even if plaintiff's version is to be accepted, this part ...