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Sommer v. Kridel - 74 N.J. 446, 378 A.2d 767 (1977)

Rule:

Antiquated real property concepts which served as the basis for the pre-existing rule, shall no longer be controlling where there is a claim for damages under a residential lease. Such claims must be governed by more modern notions of fairness and equity. A landlord has a duty to mitigate damages where he seeks to recover rents due from a defaulting tenant.

Facts:

Defendant tenants signed a residential lease for apartments which they vacated. Landlords sued tenants in two separate cases to collect rent for the entire lease. One trial court dismissed the complaint, which was reversed on appeal. The other trial court granted of summary judgment for the landlord, which was affirmed on appeal. Both defendants appealed. In one case, plaintiff landlord said he did not attempt to re-let, and even denied a potential tenant the opportunity to rent the vacated apartment. The other plaintiff did not respond to interrogatories posited during discovery. 

Issue:

Were the landlords entitled to recover rent due under the leases regardless of whether they had attempted to re-let the vacated apartments?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The state supreme court reversed, holding that landlords had an obligation to make a reasonable effort to mitigate damages with respect to the wrongfully vacated apartments. Therefore, the court overruled Joyce v. Bauman, 113 N.J.L. 438 (E. & A. 1934), to the extent it was inconsistent with its decision. Thus, the judgment of one case was reversed where the plaintiff landlord did not mitigate his damages and could have re-leased the apartment right away. The other case was reversed and remanded to determine whether the landlord could have mitigated the damages.

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