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Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the Township of Franklin v. Miller

November 19, 2007

HOUSING AND REDEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF THE TOWNSHIP OF FRANKLIN, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BERTHA MILLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Somerset County, LT-1072-06.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Coburn, P.J.A.D.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

APPROVED FOR PUBLICATION

Argued November 7, 2007

Before Judge Coburn, Grall and Chambers.

Plaintiff, Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the Township of Franklin, filed this summary dispossess action against one of its tenants, defendant Bertha Miller. Plaintiff sought eviction because Miller had engaged in criminal activity that threatened the health or safety of other tenants, or their right to peaceful enjoyment of the public housing premises. After a bench trial, plaintiff obtained a judgment of possession, and Miller appealed.

The primary issue is whether eviction from federally subsidized public housing can be based on a tenant's commission of a "disorderly persons offense," or whether eviction requires proof of a "crime," as those concepts are defined in the New Jersey Criminal Code. We hold that commission of a disorderly persons offense justifies eviction under federal law if the conduct threatens the health or safety of other tenants, or their right to peaceful enjoyment of the public housing premises. Therefore, we affirm.

I.

A brief summary of the material facts will suffice since Miller does not contend the judge erred in finding that she had assaulted two other tenants. In 2006, Miller and her four minor children lived in an apartment in a federally subsidized housing complex operated by plaintiff. As required by federal law, Miller's lease contained the following provisions:

Tenant shall be obligated:

L. To abide by the one strike policy and to assure that Tenant, any member of the household, a guest, or another person under Tenant's control, shall not engage in:

(1) Any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the Authority's public housing premises by other residents or employees of the Authority . . . .

Any criminal activity in violation of the preceding shall be cause for termination of the tenancy, and for eviction from the unit.

Violations of this Part II, Section (L) shall be considered a serious breach of the material terms of the Lease. A criminal conviction or arrest is not necessary for this Lease to be ...


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