June 7, 2012
MIDDLEBROOK AT MONMOUTH, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
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.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION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 apartment was not substantially different. The court stated:
There was one picture of one room where it's obvious that [defendant] made some progress. But more importantly, the living room is just crowded with debris and . . . I'm not quite sure how someone could live there.
The plaintiff's testimony is that this condition would lead to infestation and create a hazard. It clearly would create some type of a hazard for rodents and other insects in the apartment.
The court found that plaintiff had provided defendant with notices to cease the violations and to quit the premises. The court also found that defendant violated the terms of the lease. The court stated that the apartment was not sanitary or clean. "And not just a little bit not clean. It's just . . . unbelievable." The court determined that plaintiff was entitled to a judgment granting it possession of the premises. The court entered a judgment of possession for plaintiff dated January 16, 2009.
Defendant filed a notice of appeal on January 22, 2009. He also filed a motion in this court seeking a stay of the trial court's judgment pending appeal. We entered an order dated March 13, 2009, denying the motion. Defendant then filed a motion for reconsideration, which we denied by order dated April 14, 2009. Defendant thereafter filed a motion for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, which the Court denied on June 18, 2009.
It appears that on August 4, 2009, defendant endeavored to initiate an action in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The District Court conducted a conference in the matter on October 13, 2009, after which it issued an order requiring defendant to show cause why the case should not be dismissed. Defendant filed a response on November 2, 2009.
On March 1, 2010, the District Court issued a Memorandum Opinion concluding that the matter should be dismissed. The court noted that if defendant had any issue with the state-court judgment, he should take his case "to the proper appellate court." The District Court entered an order dated March 1, 2010, dismissing the case.
On March 10, 2010, defendant filed a motion in the District Court for reconsideration. The court addressed that motion in a Memorandum Opinion dated April 19, 2010, in which it concluded that the motion should be denied. The District Court entered an order dated April 19, 2010, denying the motion.
Defendant asserts that he filed an appeal from the District Court's order to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He says that the Court of Appeals "denied the appeal." Defendant also asserts that on July 12, 2011, he filed a petition for a writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States. According to defendant, the Court denied the petition on October 3, 2011. Defendant asserts that he was going to file a "petition for rehearing."
In this appeal, defendant argues that he was denied due process in the trial of this case. He contends that the notice "did not match the [trial]" and, therefore, the trial court did not have jurisdiction in the matter. He additionally asserts that there was "no hearing" because he was not permitted to offer a defense. He maintains that the trial court improperly interrupted him and erred by relying upon Pape's testimony.
In addition, defendant argues that plaintiff should have lost the appeals because it has filed nothing since the trial judge ruled. He further asserts that "the courts" erred by failing to "honor" the United States Constitution, the United States Code and New Jersey statutes.
We have carefully considered the record and conclude that defendant's arguments are without sufficient merit to warrant discussion in a written opinion. R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E). We note, however, that the record shows that defendant was afforded an opportunity to offer a defense to plaintiff's complaint. The record also shows that plaintiff presented sufficient factual support for the trial court's determination that defendant violated the terms of the lease, thereby warranting his removal from the premises.
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