NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Argued April 16, 2013
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part, Essex County, Docket No. LT-22581-12.
Khabirah H. Myers argued the cause for appellant (Essex-Newark Legal Services,
attorneys; Ms. Myers and Jose L. Ortiz, on the briefs).
James Ochieng, respondent, argued the cause pro se.
Before Judges Waugh and Leone.
Defendant Walter Bloss appeals orders of the Special Civil Part granting a judgment of possession to his landlord, plaintiff James Ochieng, as well as denying his application for reconsideration. We reverse.
Bloss is a disabled veteran with significant medical problems. He is legally blind. He also has diabetes and heart problems. He was eighty-nine years old at the time this litigation started. Bloss has lived in the apartment at issue, which is located on Main Street in West Orange, for more than forty years. The apartment is rent controlled. Ochieng acquired the building in 2006.
Although Bloss was the sole tenant named on the prior lease, his grandson, Steven Van Deysen, has occasionally lived with him since the 1980s. Because of Bloss's disabilities, Van Deysen has lived with Bloss on a regular basis for approximately the last six years. According to Bloss, his doctor advised him to have someone live with him to help monitor his diabetes.
Because of what Ochieng described as a series of problems related to Van Deysen's conduct at or near the apartment building, Ochieng served Bloss with a notice to quit and an offer for a lease renewal with changed terms. The proposed lease included a requirement that any live-in caregiver be acceptable to the landlord. The notice was served in February 2011. Bloss refused to sign the new lease, explaining to Ochieng that he needed Van Deysen to care for him. Ochieng responded that he did not object to a suitable caregiver, but that Van Deysen was unacceptable because of his perceived misconduct.
On May 17, 2012, Ochieng served Bloss with another notice to quit and lease renewal offer, which contained essentially the same lease terms. Bloss again refused to sign the lease. Ochieng commenced the present action for eviction on July 20. He alleged that Bloss refused to sign the ...