Does a landlord have the right to dispossess a janitor of an apartment building in order to gain possession of that particular apartment for himself?
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(m) permits the removal of a superintendent or janitor whose job is terminated and whose tenancy is conditioned on that employment:
The landlord or owner conditioned the tenancy upon and in consideration for the tenant's employment by the landlord or owner as superintendent, janitor or in some other capacity and such employment is being terminated.
The brief language aforesaid raises questions as to what facts are necessary to bring it into play. The issue raised, therefore, is whether paragraph (m) permits a landlord to dispossess a building employee for literally any reason, as long
as his job is terminated and the tenancy conditioned on that job. Plaintiff-landlord contends that the clear unequivocal language of the statute leaves no doubt.
Defendant-tenant resists on several grounds, one of which is that his original tenancy in the apartment in question was not conditioned on any building related employment; stating that his part-time services as a janitor came later on. He further contends that he is ready and willing to pay plaintiff-landlord the full rent for the apartment.
Plaintiff is the recent purchaser of an 18-unit apartment house. Defendant has been a resident for many years and over the last few years, took on part-time janitorial duties with the former landlord. The proofs show that defendant first lived in a one-bedroom apartment; thereafter moved to a two-bedroom apartment on the second floor where he and his family are today. On accepting the janitor job, long after moving into the two bedroom apartment, defendant received a reduction in rent. At the time of the purchase of the property by plaintiff, defendant was paying $200 a month for the apartment and the use of a garage. An identical two-bedroom apartment rents for $289 a month and a garage for $30 a month; the remuneration to defendant for these services therefore being equal to $119 a month at the time plaintiff became the owner.
Plaintiff terminated defendant's job after purchasing the building and immediately served a notice on him seeking possession of his apartment; the language in said notice referring to the terminated job. Upon receipt, defendant offered to pay the full rent of $319 a month.
The landlord testified that there were conditions present in the building that were brought to his attention at and prior to the signing of the contract for the purchase of the building with which he was concerned. He referred to tenants that were operating a babysitting business in the building, tenants using various driveway areas for car washing and car repairs, tenants
improperly obtaining electricity by running extensions into the ...