On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County, Docket No. DC-5717-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Submitted February 15, 2011
Before Judges Yannotti and Espinosa.
Following a trial in the Special Civil Part, the court entered a judgment for plaintiff, dated May 24, 2010. Thereafter, plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration of the judgment, which the court denied by order dated July 16, 2010. Plaintiff appeals from the judgment and the order denying reconsideration. We affirm in part, reverse in part and remand for entry of a amended judgment.
This appeal arises from the following facts.
Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Robert Wright III, Stacie Wright and Ayesha Wright (the Wrights) dated March 11, 2009, under which plaintiff leased to the Wrights an apartment in Newark, New Jersey for the period through March 31, 2010.
The lease required the Wrights to pay rent in the amount of $1050 per month during the lease term. The lease stated that a $50 charge would be imposed if rent was not paid before the 5th day of each month, and such late charges would be considered additional rent.
The lease further required the Wrights to make a security deposit in the amount of $1575. The lease stated that the deposit would be returned thirty days after the end of the lease term, less any charges imposed pursuant to the lease. The lease additionally stated that the Wrights would be liable for all damages caused by any violation of the lease.
On November 10, 2009, plaintiff filed an action in the Special Civil Part against the Wrights seeking a judgment of possession for the leased premises. Plaintiff alleged that the Wrights had not paid rent when due and violated the terms of the lease. On January 29, 2010, the court entered a judgment of possession for plaintiff and a warrant for the Wrights' removal from the premises was issued. It is undisputed that the Wrights vacated the premises on February 4, 2010.
On February 19, 2010, plaintiff filed this action against Robert Wright III, Stacie Wright, Ayesha Wright and Amirah Wright in the Special Civil Part, seeking $8084 in damages, less the security deposit (and interest) of $1590 for a net recovery of $6494. In particular, plaintiff sought unpaid rent in the amount of $1050 per month for December 2009 through March 2010; late fees of $50 per month for November 2009 through March 2010; additional rent of $1600 because persons other than the tenants resided in the apartment from June 2009 through January 2010; and extermination costs and cleaning expenses.
The matter was tried before the court, sitting without a jury. Plaintiff provided the court with a copy of the lease. The court observed that Amirah Wright had not signed the lease. Accordingly, the court dismissed the claims as to Amirah Wright because she had no obligations under the lease.
Plaintiff testified that, after defendants vacated the premises, the bathroom had to be cleaned. Plaintiff said that there was "soap scum" in the tub and on the walls. He claimed that defendants had torn the doorstops off of the doors. He said that defendants had smoked in the apartment and "there's cigarette smoke throughout the place." He also said that defendants had burned holes in the carpet on the sun porch. Plaintiff provided the court with photographs of the alleged damage.
The court found that plaintiff was entitled to rent in the amount of $1050 per month for December 2009 through February 2010, plus a late fee of $50 for November 2009. The court gave the Wrights credit for the $1575 security deposit, leaving a balance due in the amount of $1625. The court further found that plaintiff had not sustained his burden of proving that the damages for which he sought ...