This action involves the applicability, or nonapplicability, of § l(3) of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, Eviction for Good Cause Act, (hereinafter the act) in the case of a building which contains three residential units and one commercial unit.
Under said section of the act, an owner of a building containing three residential units or less may evict a tenant in order to personally occupy the premises. The Legislature thereby recognized that "three residential units or less . . . to personally occupy" constitutes good cause for eviction.
Plaintiff, Ruben Cabrera, in the case sub judice is the owner of the building in which he seeks to occupy the first-floor apartment. He served upon defendant-tenant, Dominicio Mordan, a notice to quit on November 28, 1986 terminating said tenancy as of February 1, 1987. When tenant failed to vacate
said premises, plaintiff initiated this summary dispossess action.
Prior to the passage of the act in 1974, summary dispossess actions were controlled by N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53, whereunder landlords could evict tenants without having to establish good cause. No doubt, that as a result of the arbitrary removal of tenants under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53, and the critical housing shortage in the State of New Jersey, the act was adopted.
In enacting that legislation, the Legislature made the following statement:
At present, there are no limitations imposed by statute upon the reasons a landlord may utilize to evict a tenant. As a result, residential tenants frequently have been unfairly and arbitrarily ousted from housing quarters in which they have been comfortable and where they have not caused any problems. This is a serious matter, particularly now that there is a critical shortage of rental housing space in New Jersey. This act shall limit the eviction of tenants by landlords to reasonable grounds to provide that suitable notice shall be given to tenants when an action for eviction is instituted by the landlord.
The overall spirit of the law is the prevention of arbitrary removal of tenants from housing quarters in which they have been comfortable and where they have not caused any problems. [at 151]
The act was passed in 1974 as remedial legislation to alleviate hardship experienced by residential tenants as a result of arbitrary or unfair eviction by landlords. In relevant part, the introductory language of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 provides as follows:
No lessee or tenant . . . may be removed by the County District Court or the Superior Court from any house, building . . . leased for residential purposes, other than owner-occupied ...