On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Hudson County, L-3237-02.
Before Judges Kestin, Cuff and Winkelstein.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Winkelstein, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Plaintiff is a landlord and defendants are residential month-to-month tenants. On May 1, 2001, the landlord notified the tenants to vacate the leased premises by November 1, 2002, because the landlord intended to retire the building from residential use. See N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(h); N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2d. Subsequently, on January 25, 2002, the landlord provided the tenants with another notice -- to increase their rent, effective March 1, 2002. The tenants accepted the rent increase and continued in occupancy. In so doing, they claimed a new tenancy was created, which nullified the landlord's initial notice to terminate their tenancies by November 1. The Law Division agreed. The court concluded that because a new tenancy was created when the tenants paid the rent increase and remained in possession, the previously furnished eighteen-month notice of the landlord's intention to permanently retire the building from residential use was rendered invalid. We reverse. The tenancies created when the tenants held over at the new rent were limited in their term by the May 1, 2001 notice terminating the tenants' right to possession as of November 1, 2002.
The facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff is the owner of a nine-unit apartment building in Jersey City. Defendants occupy the building without written leases. Plaintiff intends to permanently retire the building from residential use and convert it to a day care center. Consequently, on May 1, 2001, each tenant was sent a notice that stated, in part:
2. Termination of Lease. Your lease is TERMINATED (ended) as of November 1, 2002.
3. Demand for possession. You must leave and vacate this rented property on or before that date (November 1, 2002). This means you must move out and deliver possession for me, your Landlord.
4. Reason. Your lease is terminated because Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:18-16.1(h)"the owner seeks to permanently retire the building from residential use." The owners of the property at 110 Romaine Avenue seek to demolish the building in order to erect a day care center.*fn1
A week later, plaintiff sent another notice to each tenant, the only change from the May 1 notice being that plaintiff's name was corrected from J.M.J. New Jersey Investments, Inc., to J.M.J. New Properties, Inc. Furthermore, because some of the tenants did not receive the May 1, 2001 notice until May 9, 2001, plaintiff sent a subsequent notice to each tenant extending the deadline to vacate the property to December 31, 2002.*fn2
Between the date the first notice was sent on May 1 and the expiration of the eighteen-month notification period, plaintiff decided to raise the tenants' rent. Accordingly, on January 25, 2002, plaintiff notified each tenant of a 1.8% rent increase effective March 1, 2002, representing the amount permitted under the Jersey City Rent Control Ordinance. The notice, in part, stated:
Your Landlord wants to increase your rent. In order to do this your Landlord must terminate (end) your tenancy and offer you continued tenancy until November 1, 2002 at an increase in rent. Your Landlord ...