On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Camden County, Docket No. LT-3726-10.
New Jersey Court of Appeals a5487_09.pdf
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued February 9, 2011 - Decided Before Judges Cuff and Simonelli.
Defendant Barbara Carroll appeals from the July 1, 2010 judgment granting plaintiff Housing Authority of the City of Camden (Housing Authority) possession of a public housing apartment in which defendant lived since October 24, 2005. Defendant contends that because she did not receive proper notice of lease termination, the trial court lacked jurisdiction to issue the judgment of possession. We agree and reverse.
Defendant's tenancy is governed by the United States Housing Act of 1937, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1437 to 1437z, under the auspices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and by the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 to -61.21. As such, before instituting an action for eviction, the Housing Authority must satisfy federal and state due process requirements. Hous. Auth. of the City of Newark v. Raindrop, 287 N.J. Super. 222, 229 (App. Div. 1996). Among other things, it must give the tenant written notice of lease termination stating, in detail, the specific grounds for termination. 24 C.F.R. 966.4(l)(3)(ii); N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.2. Failure to do so denies the trial court jurisdiction to issue a judgment of possession. Riverview Towers Assocs. v. Jones, 358 N.J. Super. 85, 88 (App. Div. 2003).
In this case, on July 9, 2009, the Housing Authority sent defendant a Termination of Lease-Notice to Vacate (Termination Notice). The Termination Notice notified defendant that the Housing Authority was terminating her lease because her son, who she listed as a household member on her annual lease renewals, had violated its "One Strike and You're Out Policy" on July 8, 2009.*fn1 Specifically, defendant's son was observed selling and/or possessing a controlled drug substance (CDS) on the premises and was arrested and charged with possession of CDS with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public housing development.*fn2
On May 5, 2010, the Housing Authority filed a summary dispossess action seeking defendant's eviction based on non-payment of rent and the violation of the "One Strike and You're Out Policy" stemming from the son's July 2009 arrest. Shortly before the trial on June 24, 2010, the Housing Authority discovered that the son had a prior criminal conviction in 2008. Although the Housing Authority admitted it gave defendant no notice it was terminating her lease because of the 2008 conviction, it nonetheless relied solely on this conviction at trial and presented no evidence of the July 2009 arrest.
The trial judge entered a judgment of possession based on the 2008 conviction. This was error. The Termination Notice specified the 2009 arrest as the basis for defendant's lease termination. The Housing Authority provided no notice to defendant of her lease termination based on the 2008 conviction.
Accordingly, the judge lacked jurisdiction to enter the judgment of possession.
Having reached this conclusion, we need not address defendant's contentions that the Housing Authority waived the alleged violation by twice renewing her lease and acted in bad faith.