On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division-Special Civil Part, Essex County, LT-4794-03.
Before Judges Kestin, Cuff and Winkelstein.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Cuff, J.A.D.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
In this appeal, we address whether the language of the model lease for federally subsidized housing is consonant with State law. We must decide whether the language in the lease is sufficient to establish a right of re-entry as required by N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1. The trial judge held that the lease did not contain the required reservation and dismissed the complaint. We hold that the lease language is sufficient to reserve a right of re-entry. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Plaintiff, Kuzuri Kijiji, Inc., is the owner of a 236-unit apartment building located in East Orange. The building is"a multi-family housing project," partially subsidized by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Plaintiff's operation of the apartment building is subject to the policies and procedures established by HUD for public housing projects. Some of these policies and procedures are part of a handbook published by HUD entitled,"HUD Handbook 4350.3-CHG 19: Occupancy Requirements of Subsidized Multifamily Housing Programs" (HUD Handbook). The HUD Handbook"is a one source'rule book' on the occupancy policies and procedures governing the subsidized multifamily programs" of HUD. According to the HUD Handbook,"tenants must execute leases that meet the requirements of paragraph 4-2." Section 4-2 requires owners of HUD housing projects to use one of three model leases contained in the HUD Handbook appendix.
Defendant, Sheree Bryan, is a tenant in the apartment building. On April 1, 1996, defendant entered into a lease for apartment unit 3201. The lease was one of the model form leases drafted by HUD and contained twenty-seven paragraphs. The lease provided for a tenancy of one-year and automatically continued for successive one-year terms unless the lease was terminated. According to its provisions, defendant agreed to pay plaintiff a subsidized monthly rent of $73.
The present case implicates two provisions of the lease, Paragraph 13 and Paragraph 23. Paragraph 13 of the HUD lease is entitled"General Restrictions" and outlines a generic agreement between plaintiff and defendant regarding certain prescribed and proscribed actions. Specifically, the paragraph provides in pertinent part:
The Tenant must live in the unit and the unit must be the Tenant's only place of residence. The Tenant shall use the premises only as a private dwelling for himself/herself and the individuals listed on the Certification and Recertification of Tenant Eligibility. The Tenant agrees to permit other individuals to reside in the unit only after obtaining the prior written approval of the Landlord. The Tenant agrees not to:
a. sublet or assign the unit, or any part of the unit;
b. use the unit for unlawful purposes;
c. engage in or permit unlawful activities in the unit, in the common areas or on the project grounds;
d. have pets or animals of any kind in the unit without the prior written permission of the Landlord; or
e. make or permit noises or acts that will disturb the rights or comfort of neighbors. The Tenant agrees to keep the volume of any radio, phonograph, television or musical instrument at a level ...