On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Passaic County.
Muir, Jr. and Brochin. The opinion of the court was delivered by Brochin, J.A.D.
The Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, limits a landlord's right to evict a residential tenant from
any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes, other than owner-occupied premises with not more than two rental units or a hotel, motel or other guest house or part thereof rented to a transient guest or seasonal tenant. . . .
The landlord can evict the tenant only for those reasons which the statute defines as "good cause."
In the present case, the trial court held that the landlord had established "good cause" within the meaning of N.J.S.A.
2A:18-61.1(l)(3). Under that provision, good cause exists when:
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 calls for the unit to be vacant at the time of closing. . . .
The tenant appealed, contending that a corporate owner intending to operate its business in its building is not "seek[ing] to personally occupy a unit" within the meaning of the statute. We agree and therefore reverse.
Plaintiff Aquino Colonial Funeral Home, a corporation, operates its funeral home business in a portion of a building that it owns. It rents the remainder of the building to two tenants for residential apartments. In order to expand its business premises into the space now occupied by one of its residential tenants, defendant Veronica Pittari,*fn1 plaintiff commenced this suit for eviction pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(l)(3).
Mr. Vincent Lombardo testified on behalf of plaintiff. He stated that he and his wife are Aquino Funeral Home's sole stockholders and that he is its only employee. The funeral home may be in operation at any hour of the day or night, and Mr. Lombardo works 60 or 70 hours a week. He wants to move his office to the second floor, where Ms. Pittari's apartment is now located, so that his files, which are scattered throughout his premises, can be consolidated there, and so that he can meet in greater privacy with persons who come to arrange for funerals.
There is no reported appellate decision which has determined whether business or professional use of premises constitutes "personally occupy[ing]" them within the meaning of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(l)(3). The only reported trial court decision on point is ...