These cases are summary dispossess actions returnable December 3, 1992. Defendants and tenants Miguel Medina ("Medina") and Rafael Martinez ("Martinez") have brought this motion pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-60 and R. 6:4-1(g) to transfer these actions from the Special Civil Part to the Law Division of the Superior Court, and for consolidation.
Medina and Martinez are tenants of the premises owned by Dario Lopez ("plaintiff"). There are no written leases; Medina and Martinez are under oral periodic tenancies (month-to-month). Both defendants speak little English.
Penn Federal Savings Bank owned the subject premises until June 1991. In or about June 1991, the property was purchased by Dacamlu Corporation, whose principals are Dario Lopez and Camilo Rodriguez.
On September 4, 1992, plaintiff filed separate summonses and complaints against Medina and Martinez. The complaints, which are essentially identical, state that the tenants each pay a monthly rent of $300.00. The first count alleges that Medina and Martinez are holdover tenants, and that Medina and Martinez were served with a written Notice Terminating Tenancy on May 29, 1992. That notice stated that plaintiff intended to personally occupy the premises, and demanded possession of the premises on August 1, 1992. Medina and Martinez continue in possession of their units. The second count alleges that Medina and Martinez have not paid the monthly rent from May 1992 through August 1992, totalling $1,200.00 for each tenant. Plaintiff seeks possession and costs.
The premises are alleged to be in a state of disrepair and defendants sought an inspection by the local Newark Inspection and Enforcements Division. There are other allegations: that plaintiff allowed the hot water to be shut off; that plaintiff has served defendants with various notices to vacate the premises; and that plaintiff has filed various summonses and complaints against Medina and Martinez for eviction.
Medina and Martinez brought a separate cause of action in the Law Division. Their Verified Complaint and Jury Demand, dated October 20, 1992 were filed early December 1992, against Dario Lopez, Camilo Rodriguez, Dacamlu Corporation and Penn Federal Savings Bank (collectively, "landlords"). Medina and Martinez allege the following: that landlords have engaged in
misrepresentation and in an unconscionable commercial practice, in violation of N.J.S.A. 56:8-2; that landlords have placed the tenants "in constant fear and danger to life and limb and [are forcing them] from the property," in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:39-1 et seq.; that landlords have engaged in negligent misrepresentation; that landlords have breached the implied warrant of habitability; that landlords have intentionally inflicted emotional distress on tenants; and that landlords have engaged in retaliatory eviction, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:42-12 et seq.
In their Verified Complaint, Medina and Martinez seek a judgment by the court for equitable relief, damages, punitive damages, attorney fees and costs, and other relief that the court deems just and equitable.
On December 16, 1992, this court heard oral argument as to whether the summary dispossess actions should be transferred to the Law Division and subsequently consolidated.
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-60 provides that "[a]t any time before an action for removal of a tenant comes on for trial, either the landlord or person in possession may apply to the superior court, which may, if it deems it of sufficient importance, order the cause transferred from the Special Civil Part to the Law Division." N.J.S.A. 2A:18-60 (Amended by L.1991, c. 91, section 66, eff. April 9, 1991). Accordingly, the issue in this case is whether this court deems it "of sufficient importance" so as to grant an order for such a transfer.
A. Discretion of the court.
On application of either party, the Superior Court, in its discretion, can transfer a summary dispossession proceeding of leased premises from District Court. Carteret Properties v. Variety Donuts, Inc., 49 N.J. 116, 130, 228 A.2d 674 (1967). ...