On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Docket No. DC-16067-10.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges Reisner and Hayden.
In this commercial lease case, plaintiffs Donna Vitiello, Crest Management, L.L.C., and Dovan Management Group, L.L.C., appeal from a January 28, 2011 Law Division Order, which awarded defendants Jose Marques and 70 Burroughs, L.L.C., unpaid back rent and attorneys fees and denied plaintiffs' claim for return of the security deposit. We affirm.
We glean the following from the record. In November 2006, Vitiello, as the principal of Crest Management, L.L.C, later known as Dovan Management Group L.L.C., and Marques, as the principal of 70 Burroughs L.L.C., executed a commercial lease agreement. In the lease, Crest rented office space in a building owned by 70 Burroughs L.L.C. for a term of three years from January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2009. Vitiello, an experienced property manager, planned to use the office space for Crest's residential property management business.
Under the terms of the lease, which was drafted by Marques, the tenant agreed to be responsible for repairing the floors, windows, doors, ceilings, and fixtures, while the landlord was responsible for repairing the roof, outside walls, structural parts of the building, and parking lot. The lease agreement further provided that, if the tenant vacated the premises during the term of the lease, it would be liable for the remaining rent payments. The lease also stipulated that if Crest defaulted on the lease, it was liable to pay "all costs, damages and expenses (including reasonable attorney fees and expenses) suffered by Landlord by reason of Tenant's defaults."
Vitiello and Marques do not agree on the events which preceded this action. According to Vitiello, in late 2007, the building's boiler began to experience problems that interfered with the functioning of electricity and computers and caused the work area to remain exceptionally cold. She also contended that cracks around the windows allowed cold air to seep through the leased premises during the winter and bugs and dust to enter during the summer.
Vitiello stated that she withheld rent for the month of December 2007 because of her dissatisfaction with the office conditions and because of the extra expense from using electric heaters to bring the office to a tolerable temperature. Vitiello alleged that in 2008, after three months of freezing cold, the landlord repaired the heating system. However, she claimed the intolerable cold persisted because, although Marques had promised to replace all the windows, he did not. She also reported a mouse problem, but, she conceded, the problem was a ...