Plaintiff Michael Soliman brings this summary dispossess action against defendants, Rocio Cepeda and Bergen County Housing Authority, for non-payment of rent under the Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 to -61.12. This case involves issues which our courts have not yet addressed. First, may a landlord evict a tenant who has paid her share of rent under an Assisted Lease Agreement solely because a public housing authority has not paid its share under a Housing Assistance Payments Contract made pursuant to Section 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f? Second, may a landlord bring an action in landlord-tenant court against a public housing authority which has only contracted to provide assistance payments but not leased the premises?
On November 19, 1991, plaintiff and defendant entered into an Assisted Lease Agreement (lease), pursuant to § 8 of the United States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f (§ 8), in which defendant Cepeda "as Tenant agreed to pay $19.00 per month to the Landlord as the tenant rent." Paragraph 1(D)(3) of the lease provides that the "total rent shall be $973.00 per month. Of this amount, $954 shall be payable by the Public Housing Authority (PHA) as housing assistance payments on behalf of the Tenant." The lease does not expressly state that defendant Cepeda is responsible for PHA's portion of the rent.
On or about the same date, plaintiff and defendant Bergen County Housing Authority (BCHA), as an authorized PHA, entered into a Housing Assistance Payment Contract (contract) in
which "the amount of the housing assistance payment shall be $954.00 per month." The contract states that "[n]either the PHA nor the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assumes any obligation for the tenant rent . . . [t]he obligation of the PHA is limited to making housing assistance payments on behalf of the Family in accordance with [the] Contract."
In November 1992, pursuant to the contract and HUD's regulations, BCHA inspected defendant Cepeda's unit and notified plaintiff, by mail, that the unit failed to meet HUD's standards and that he had thirty days to bring it into compliance. According to the lease, once the thirty days pass and the landlord still has not made repairs, the landlord forfeits his entitlement to BCHA's monthly assistance payment.
Plaintiff did not notify BCHA until February 17, 1993, that the unit was ready for reinspection. By that time, BCHA would not make retroactive payments and notified him of such. During this entire time and up until the date of trial, defendant Cepeda continued to pay her share of the rent. Plaintiff therefore brings this summary dispossess action based solely on BCHA's non-payment of its share of the December 1992, and January 1993, rent.
Section 8 provides for rental assistance to low-income tenants. Its purposes are to provide safe, sanitary, and decent housing to low-income families and to promote economically mixed housing. See Bakos v. Flint Housing Commission, 746 F.2d 1179 (6th Cir.1984); Mitchell v. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 569 F. Supp. 701 (N.D.Cal.1983).
Section 8 authorizes the Secretary of HUD to enter into annual contributions contracts with local PHA's so that they may "make assistance payments to owners of existing dwelling units." 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f(b). A PHA may therefore contract with an owner of existing housing through a contract. Section 8 also authorizes HUD to specify the terms and conditions for a lease
between the tenant and the owner. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f(d)(1)(B)(i).
HUD provides a form lease and a form contract with terms and conditions which incorporate applicable portions of § 8 and HUD's regulations. Both forms establish what the full monthly rent will be. The lease, however, only obligates the tenant to pay a portion of the rent and merely states that the PHA is responsible for the remaining portion. Similarly, the contract only obligates the PHA to ...