The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stein, J.
On certification to the Superior Court, Appellate Division, whose opinion is reported at 304 N.J. Super. 586 (1997).
In 1981, as part of "[a]n Act making it unlawful to refuse to rent to persons with children under certain circumstances and to refuse to rent to a person because of objections to the person's source of income," the New Jersey Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100, which provides, in pertinent part:
"No person, firm or corporation or any agent, officer or employee thereof shall refuse to rent or lease any house or apartment to another person because of the source of any lawful income received by the person or the source of any lawful rent payment to be paid for the house or apartment."
The purpose of the act, in part, was to "prohibit a landlord from refusing to rent to a person merely because of objections to the source of the person's lawful income." Assembly Commerce, Industry and Professions Committee, Statement to A. 994 (May 1, 1980). In a press release accompanying the signing of the legislation, Governor Byrne stated that its purpose was "to protect from housing discrimination welfare recipients, spouses dependent on alimony and child support payments and tenants receiving governmental rental assistance." Office of the Governor, News Release at 1 (Dec. 9, 1981).
The issue presented in this appeal is whether N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100 prohibits a landlord that has never participated in the federal Section 8 rental assistance program, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f, from refusing to accept a Section 8 voucher from one of the landlord's existing tenants who becomes eligible for Section 8 assistance during the course of her tenancy. Specifically, we must decide whether N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100 encompasses Section 8 payments and, if so, whether it is preempted by the federal legislation.
The trial court found that the state statute did not encompass Section 8 vouchers and that, even if it did, it is preempted by the federal statute. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100 requires property owners to accept Section 8 vouchers, and that there is no preemption. 304 N.J. Super. 586, 589-90 (1997). We granted the property owner's petition for certification. 152 N.J. 364 (1998).
The essential facts are not in dispute. At the time this action was commenced, Sava Holding Corporation ("Sava") owned an eighteen-unit residential building located at 211 64th Street, West New York, New Jersey. All tenants in the building were subject to oral month-to-month tenancies. N.M., a sixty-five-year-old widow who was unable to work, had been a tenant in the building since 1991. Her sole source of income was a monthly grant of Social Security in the amount of $521.80. N.M.'s monthly rent was $450, but Sava agreed to reduce it to $425 per month. The building in which N.M. resided was subject to the West New York Rent Control Ordinance.
On April 22, 1996, the West New York Housing Authority issued N.M. a Section 8 rental voucher, an authorization issued pursuant to the federal Section 8 housing program that can be redeemed by a landlord for a portion of a tenant's monthly rent. N.M. had applied for Section 8 assistance when she first moved into the building, but she was not eligible at that time. The voucher provided that the Housing Authority would agree to make monthly payments to Sava to assist N.M. in paying the rent. On April 24, 1996, N.M. tendered the Section 8 voucher and the requisite documents to Sava to be applied to the following month's rent. Sava refused to accept the voucher or to execute the documents because it did not want to become entangled with the "bureaucracy" of the Section 8 program. Sava had never participated in the Section 8 rental assistance program or in any other federal or state rental assistance program.
In May 1996, Sava filed a summons and complaint in tenancy against N.M. alleging non-payment of rent, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(a). The trial court held that Sava was not required to accept the Section 8 voucher. The court concluded that N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100 prohibits discrimination by landlords against people who have children or who are "on Public Assistance, or receive alimony, or child support," but that the statute does not prohibit landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 rental vouchers. The court also held that the state statute, because it interfered with the voluntary nature of the federal Section 8 program, was preempted under the Supremacy Clause.
A judgment of possession was entered, and N.M. was ordered to pay the total rent due. N.M. filed a notice of appeal. In March 1997, Sava sold the building to Franklin Tower One, L.L.C. ("Franklin Tower"), the successor in interest to Sava and the named party in this appeal.
The Appellate Division reversed, holding that N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100 prohibits landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers. 304 N.J. Super. at 589-90. The court relied on M.T. v. Kentwood Construction Co., 278 N.J. Super. 346, 350 (App. Div. 1994), which "recognized that Section 8 voucher payments were encompassed within both the letter and spirit of N.J.S.A. 2A:42-100." 304 N.J. Super. at 589. The Appellate Division found further support for its holding in New Jersey's "strong public policy . . . to secure affordable housing for low-income persons." Id. at 591. The court also held that, because the federal and the state statutes advance the same goal of protecting low-income tenants, there is no conflict between the two statutes and therefore the state statute is not preempted. Id. at 592.
The Section 8 housing assistance program was established by the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, codified at 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f, which amended the United States Housing Act of 1937. The Section 8 program was enacted "[f]or the purpose of aiding low-income families in obtaining a decent place to live and of promoting economically mixed housing." 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f(a). To that end, Section 8 authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to enter into annual contribution contracts with local public housing authorities so that they may make assistance payments to owners of existing dwelling units. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f(b).
When a tenant is deemed eligible for Section 8 assistance, the housing authority issues a voucher or certificate. 24 C.F.R. § 982.302(a).*fn1 The tenant must then find an apartment and an owner "willing to lease the unit under the [Section 8] program." 24 C.F.R. § 982.302(b). Once such a unit is located, the tenant executes a lease with the owner. 24 C.F.R. § 982.305. Generally, the tenant pays no more than thirty percent of her household income toward the monthly rent. 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437f(o)(11)(B)(ii). The housing authority enters into a separate Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) ...