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Gibbs v. Harrison

Decided: January 2, 1992.

RICHARD GIBBS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ANGELA HARRISON, DEFENDANT



ESSEX COUNTY. SPECIAL CIVIL PART

Fast, J.s.c.

Fast

FAST, J.S.C.

This case involves conflicting public policy issues, which I suggest the legislature review.

Plaintiff alleged that defendant unlawfully entered his apartment and barred him from it, contrary to the provisions of N.J.S.A. 2A:39-1. The defendant relied upon a notice from the Construction Official of the municipality. The notice stated:

"Dear Ms. Harrison

Please be advised that the boarders/roomers at the above mentioned residence are in violation of zoning codes and must be vacated immediately.

Failure to comply will result in court action. Any further questions, please contact the undersigned." (Emphasis added.)

The signature block noted his authority: "Construction Official -- Zoning Officer".

Ms. Harrison complied with the notice. She immediately "vacated" plaintiff, one of the roomers at the subject address; she simply locked him out, with no notice and without resort to the courts. She did not deny a theretofore existing landlord-tenant relationship.

The conflict in public policy results from contrasting the power of a municipality to enact and enforce zoning restrictions and other ordinances for the health and welfare of its inhabitants with the State policy of preventing "self-help" evictions of residential tenants.

Regardless of the availability of summary dispossess proceedings, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 or 2A:18-61.1, or summary actions

pursuant to R. 4:67 [as to which, see Vasquez v. Glassboro Service Ass'n, Inc., 83 N.J. 86, 108, 415 A.2d 1156 (1980)], a property owner charged with a violation of a municipal ordinance is still subject to defending the charge, and potentially subject to a fine if found guilty. With those prospects in mind, it is not unreasonable to expect a person such as the pro se ...


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