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:

In two separate cases, a residential lease was signed between landlord and tenant. In one case, the tenant never took possession of the apartment. In the second case, the tenant lived there for one year. Eventually, both apartments were vacated without the consent of the landlord and before their lease ended. The landlords sued their respective tenants to collect rent for the entire lease with damages. One trial court dismissed the complaint, which was reversed on appeal while other trial court's grant of summary judgment for plaintiff was affirmed on appeal. Both cases were appealed to the Supreme Court of Alabama.

ISSUE:

Were the landlords entitled to damages for the breach of content related to their lease agreements?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The court held that both landlords had an obligation to make a reasonable effort to mitigate damages in 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. As part of his cause of action, the landlord shall be required to carry the burden of proving that he used reasonable diligence in attempting to re-let the premises. In assessing whether the landlord has satisfactorily carried his burden, the trial court shall consider, among other factors, whether the landlord, either personally or through an agency, offered or showed the apartment to any prospective tenants, or advertised it in local newspapers. Additionally, the tenant may attempt to rebut such evidence by showing that he proffered suitable tenants who were rejected. However, there is no standard formula for measuring whether the landlord has utilized satisfactory efforts in attempting to mitigate damages, and each case must be judged upon its own facts.

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