On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Somerset County, Docket No. DC-3120-09.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Skillman and Simonelli.
Defendant Edward Neidlinger appeals from a Special Civil Part judgment awarding plaintiff Margaret Osmane $15,057 and dismissing his counterclaim. We affirm.
The following facts are derived from evidence submitted at trial.
According to plaintiff, in 2006, the parties entered into an oral rental agreement pursuant to which defendant would pay monthly rent of $400 and perform odd jobs around plaintiff's house. The parties expected this arrangement to be short-term, as defendant planned to sell his property in Pennsylvania, pay plaintiff what he owed her for rent, and then move out of her home.
Defendant was still living in plaintiff's home in September 2007. Beginning that month, defendant agreed to pay one-half of the monthly utility bills, $25 per month for food, and $30 per month for the use of a cell phone, which was on plaintiff's cell phone account. Plaintiff also loaned defendant cash, paid for sundry items such as beer and cigarettes, and made mortgage payments on defendant's Pennsylvania property totaling more than $10,000, in exchange for defendant's promise to re-pay her for these items. Plaintiff kept a written accounting of what defendant owed her, which was admitted into evidence at trial. The written accounting indicated the defendant owed plaintiff $1,601.50 for his portion of the utilities, groceries and cell phone expenses from September 2007 to May 2008, and $13,398.50 for loans and mortgage payments on the Pennsylvania property.
On May 30, 2008, defendant signed an agreement (the repayment agreement), which provides as follows:
This is to confirm that once my loan application is approved, I will pay you $15,000. This amount is to cover monies that you have given me as a loan and for utilities I owe you from August 2007.
Should my loan for the property I own in Pennsylvania not be approved or in the event of my death, this is to confirm that the total amount owed you will be paid once my property is sold. (Emphasis added.)
Plaintiff claimed that this agreement did not include outstanding rent because defendant had promised to pay back rent from the sale of stock from his mother's estate.
Defendant denied the existence of a rental agreement, or an agreement to pay utilities and expenses. He claimed that the parties only agreed that he would "take care of the lawn and whatever needed to be taken care of around the house" in lieu of paying rent. Plaintiff admitted that defendant had done some jobs around the house, such as installing new windows, cutting the grass, and trimming trees on the property, and that she did not pay him for these services. However, she explained that her non-payment was consistent with that part of the rental agreement requiring defendant to do odd jobs around the house in addition to paying rent.
Defendant moved out of plaintiff's home in September 2008, leaving behind some of his personal belongings. When he returned weeks later to remove those belongings, an argument ensued between him and plaintiff, which led plaintiff to throw his ...