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Middlebrook At Monmouth v. Bruce Joseph Liban

June 7, 2012

MIDDLEBROOK AT MONMOUTH, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
BRUCE JOSEPH LIBAN, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Monmouth County, Docket No. LT-7800-08.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Argued May 22, 2012

Before Judges Yannotti and Kennedy.

Defendant Bruce Joseph Liban appeals from an order entered by the trial court on January 16, 2009, granting a judgment of possession to plaintiff Middlebrook at Monmouth. We affirm.

We briefly summarize the relevant facts. It appears that plaintiff leased an apartment to defendant. In 2008, plaintiff filed a complaint in the Special Civil Part seeking possession of the premises because defendant failed to comply with certain provisions of the lease. Among other things, the lease required the tenant to "keep the apartment and fixtures in a clean and sanitary condition[,]" and required that the tenant "not do anything which would create a hazard or result in an increase in the landlord's insurance premiums."

The matter was scheduled for trial in either late December 2008 or early January 2009. The matter was adjourned in order to give defendant time to clean the apartment and to bring himself into compliance with the terms of the lease.

Trial in the matter took place on January 6, 2009. Kenneth P. Pape (Pape), plaintiff's representative, testified. Pape noted that plaintiff sent defendant a notice to cease violating the lease, and thereafter sent defendant a notice to quit the premises. Pape stated that defendant did not clean the premises after the notices were sent. He also stated that defendant had done little to clean up the apartment in the week since the last court appearance.

Pape presented the court with photographs taken several days before the trial. Pape further testified that he had inspected the premises on the morning of the trial and there had been no appreciable difference in the condition of the apartment, as shown in the photos. He stated that the condition of the apartment constituted a health hazard and could lead to infestation or fire.

Defendant also presented the court with photos of the premises. The court pointed out that defendant's photos only depicted "certain areas" of the apartment. Defendant told the court he spent most of the previous day cleaning up the apartment. He also stated that he had cleaned the apartment the previous weekend.

The court noted that plaintiff had provided defendant with the first notice in October 2008, and defendant had sufficient time to bring himself into compliance with the requirements of the lease. The court also noted that defendant had made some progress in cleaning the apartment and asked defendant if he had a photograph of the living room.

Defendant said that he did not have a picture of the living room but the condition of that room was as depicted in the photo that plaintiff had presented. The court stated that "if the living room still looks like this, you have problems. This is a hazard." The court noted that the picture of the bathroom also showed "a major hazard." Defendant stated that he would remove the "hazard," but the court said "[w]e're beyond that."

The court placed its decision on the record. The court noted that Pape had testified defendant's apartment was inspected and was "in deplorable condition." The court pointed out that plaintiff provided defendant with a notice to cease the violations of the lease, dated October 7, 2008. The notice indicated that the lease required the tenant to keep the apartment and fixtures in a clean and sanitary condition. The lease also required the tenant not to do anything that would create a hazard resulting in an increase in the landlord's insurance premiums.

The court also noted that Pape submitted photographs of the apartment, which were taken within the previous week. Pape testified that he inspected the apartment on the morning of the trial, and the condition of the ...


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