On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Special Civil Part, Essex County, whose opinion is reported at N.J. Super. (Law Div. 1985).
King, Deighan and Bilder. The opinion of the court was delivered by Bilder, J.A.D.
The issue raised by this appeal is whether N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11c requires the owner of a condominium to continue to seek comparable housing for a tenant after the first one-year stay of eviction pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11a where the owner provides the tenant with a hardship relocation waiver of payment of five months' rent.
Defendant Ollen B. Hinnant is the tenant in a rent-controlled apartment now owned by plaintiff Mountain Management Corporation. After the commencement of defendant's occupancy, the apartment was converted to a condominium. The relevant facts are uncontested. Defendant received notice of plaintiff's intention to convert including a three-year notice to quit, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2g, and notice of his right to purchase the condominium unit. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.8. Defendant chose not to purchase the apartment but instead, within the requisite 18 months, requested comparable housing. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11. No such comparable housing has been offered to defendant and
for the purposes of this appeal it may be assumed no responsible effort was made by plaintiff to do so.*fn1
In June 1983 plaintiff brought a dispossess action against defendant grounded upon its conversion of the apartment unit from the rental market to condominium ownership. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1k. On September 30, 1983, judgment for possession was entered but eviction was stayed for one year because the defendant had not been offered the comparable housing he requested. N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11a.
In March 1984 plaintiff notified defendant that it was waiving one month's rent as moving expense compensation, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.10, and also five months' rent as hardship relocation compensation, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11c. Defendant was also notified plaintiff would seek to obtain possession of the unit September 30, 1984. Rent checks tendered by defendant were thereafter refused by plaintiff.
In the proceeding below, plaintiff sought execution of the prior judgment of possession; defendant sought an additional one-year stay. Defendant appeals from the dissolution of a stay of execution of a Warrant of Removal and the failure of the court to grant an additional one-year stay. We granted a stay on appeal conditioned on defendant's payment of such increased rent as is authorized by the applicable rent control ordinance.
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.11, as applicable to this controversy, provides as follows:
a. Tenants receiving notice under section 3 g. of P.L.1974, c. 49 may request of the landlord within 18 full months after receipt of such notice, and the landlord shall offer to the tenant, personally or through an agent, the rental of comparable housing or park site and a reasonable opportunity to examine and rent such comparable housing or park site. In any proceeding under subsection 2 k. of P.L.1974, c. 49 instituted following the expiration of notice required under section 3 g. of P.L.1974, c. 49, the owner shall prove that a tenant was offered such comparable housing or park site and provided such reasonable
opportunity to examine and rent such housing or park site as requested pursuant to this section. The court shall authorize 1-year stays of eviction with reasonable rent increases until such time as the court is satisfied that the tenant has been offered comparable housing or park site and provided a reasonable opportunity to examine and rent such housing or park site as ...