On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County.
Botter, Polow and Brody. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brody, J.A.D.
[188 NJSuper Page 518] The issue in this appeal is whether the trial judge is correct in denying plaintiffs the right to remove defendants on two-months' notice from the single residential unit plaintiffs own in a 194-unit building known as Tower West Condominium.
Defendants are month-to-month tenants whose tenancy commenced July 1, 1974 under a one-year lease. Five months later the owner of the building converted it to a condominium. Plaintiffs purchased the unit as an investment on December 15, 1976. They have contracted to sell it to purchasers for use as their residence and the contract calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.
The rights of the parties are determined by the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 et seq., L. 1974, c. 49, commonly called the Anti-Eviction Act. The act protects residential tenants from removal except for good cause grounds enumerated in paragraphs (a) through (m) of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 (§ 61.1). Excepted from § 61.1 protection are tenants of "owner-occupied premises with not more than two rental units." That exception has been interpreted to include a building of three or fewer residential units, one of which the owner seeks to occupy personally. Bradley v. Rapp, 132 N.J. Super. 429 (App.Div.1975), certif. den. 68 N.J. 149 (1975).
By amendment of the act effective February 19, 1976 the Legislature extended protection to tenants whose dwelling units are taken off the rental market through condominium conversion. L. 1975, c. 311. See G.D. Management Co. v. Negri, 182 N.J. Super. 409, 412-413 (App.Div.1982). The amendment added paragraphs (k) and (l) to the grounds enumerated in § 61.1. Paragraph (k) reads, in relevant part:
k. The landlord or owner of the building . . . is converting from the rental market to a condominium . . ., except as hereinafter provided in subsection 1 [should read l ]. . . .
Paragraph (l) creates exceptions from (k) for owner-occupancy and reads, in relevant part:
l. (1) The owner of a building . . . which is constructed as or being converted to a condominium . . . seeks to evict a tenant . . . whose initial tenancy began after the master deed . . . was recorded, because the owner has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing. . . .
(2) The owner of three or less condominium . . . units seeks to evict a tenant whose initial tenancy began by rental from an owner of three or less units after the master deed . . . was recorded, because the owner seeks to personally occupy
the unit, or has contracted to sell the unit to a buyer who seeks to personally occupy it and the contract for sale calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing.
(3) The owner of a building of three residential units or less seeks to personally occupy a unit, or has contracted to sell the residential unit to a buyer who wishes to personally occupy it and the contract for sale ...