September 17, 2019
appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Middlesex County, Docket No. DC-008329-18.
Robert Gorman argued the cause for appellants (Lutz
Shafranski Gorman & Mahoney, PA, attorneys; John Robert
Gorman, of counsel and on the briefs).
Dietmar Ullrich argued the cause for respondent (The Ullrich
Law Firm, LLC, attorneys; Andrew Dietmar Ullrich, of counsel
and on the brief).
Judges Fisher, Accurso and Gilson.
considering the nature of a "pay-and-go" consent
judgment, which resolved a summary dispossess action, and the
judgment's impact on later-asserted claims for damages,
we hold that by entering into such a consent judgment the
parties entered into an accord and satisfaction and thereby
finally resolved all the known claims arising out of the
tenancy. Consequently, we affirm the trial court's
rejection of the tenants' counterclaim in the
landlord's subsequent action for enforcement of the
pay-and-go judgment because the counterclaim was based on a
claim then known to the tenants that they should have raised
during the negotiations that led to the pay-and-go judgment.
facts and circumstances that bring this matter before us are
uncomplicated. Following the death of her husband, plaintiff
Marisol Raji moved out of her Monroe Township home and, in
June 2012, offered to sell it to friends, defendants Alfonso
Saucedo and Yamiris Munoz. Apparently, defendants were not in
a position to immediately buy the property, so, to allow them
time to secure financing, plaintiff agreed to lease the
premises to them. And, because the parties intended an
eventual transfer of ownership, their lease agreement
arguably called for defendants to bear all costs associated
with maintaining the property.
years later, the status remained unchanged. Plaintiff texted
defendants in August 2017, lamenting the passage of time; she
expressed it was "never [her] intention to be
anyone's landlord let alone [her] friends, " and
questioned their failure to respond to her entreaties about
closing on the anticipated transaction by the end of 2017.
Plaintiff received no satisfactory response and, after paying
November's rent of $2456, defendants failed to pay the
following month's rent, prompting plaintiff's filing
of a summary dispossess action in December 2017.
parties quickly resolved their differences. On January 17,
2018, they consented to a pay-and-go judgment, which
memorialized plaintiff's entitlement to immediate
possession and fixed the parties' financial obligations.
The judgment declared that defendants would pay plaintiff
$7368, and provided a schedule of payments: the first payment
of $4912 was due within two days, following which defendants
were required to make four weekly $614 payments, the first of
which was due by February 1 and the last of which was to be
paid by February 22. The judgment also declared that so long
as defendants complied with the payment schedule, they would
be entitled to remain in the premises but, under no
circumstances, could defendants remain past March 31, 2018.
The judgment authorized issuance of a warrant of removal upon
defendants' default of the judgment's terms.
failed to make the initial payment and were eventually locked
Plaintiff commenced this action in June 2018 for enforcement
of the monetary aspects of the pay-and-go judgment. In
response, defendants filed a counterclaim, which alleged
unjust enrichment and sought nearly $9000 for having replaced
a pool liner in November 2016 and other related pool costs.
second case was tried in October 2018. Defendant Saucedo
testified the parties agreed or understood that the pool
charges would be credited against the purchase price at
closing or would constitute an offset against any rent due.
Plaintiff testified the lease agreement imposed on defendants
an obligation to replace the pool liner or to maintain the
property and, in any event, plaintiff was not unjustly
trial's conclusion, the judge rendered an oral decision
in which he implicitly found plaintiff – but not
defendant Saucedo – credible. The judge determined that
had defendants believed they were entitled to reimbursement
for the pool charges that claim should have been asserted as
a set off against the rent plaintiff claimed due during the
summary dispossess action and at the time the pay-and-go
judgment was negotiated. Because they didn't raise this
issue, the judge rejected defendants' counterclaim.
later denying defendants' motion for a new trial, the
judge iterated his view that the parties had reached an
accord and satisfaction, which was embodied in the pay-and-go
judgment, and that all their rights and liabilities
concerning the tenancy were then fixed. He also again
spoke about his findings, reiterating he did ...