Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – August 1st, 2011 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate by Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – August 1st, 2011 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate is a weekly update on real estate law, with legal principles illustrated and explained by lawsuits from around the country. The topics are wide-ranging for appeal to a broad spectrum of readers including lawyers, homeowners, investors and the general public. Andrea Lee Negroni, a Washington DC attorney and legal writer with 25 years of experience in financial services and mortgage law, contributes the case summaries.

Followers of Real Cases in Real Estate will learn and be entertained by lawsuits involving nuisance, trespass, zoning violations, deed restrictions, title insurance, public utilities, mechanics liens, construction defects, adverse possession, foreclosure and eviction, divorce and marital property rights, tenants' rights, and more. Real Cases in Real Estate uncovers the unpredictable, amusing, and sometimes outrageous disputes between next-door neighbors, contractors and homeowners, condo boards and residents, real estate brokers and homebuyers, and zoning administrators and developers.

Each fully cited case summary highlights the essential law of the case and explains the principal legal theories and concepts relevant to the outcome. Plain language treatment makes Real Cases in Real Estate accessible to lawyers and laymen alike.

Whether you follow real estate law professionally or as a hobby, you'll find something new and useful every week in Real Cases in Real Estate.

Updates for the Week of August 1st, 2011

New Jersey's Anti-Eviction Act Does Not Protect Commercial Tenants.

Ren Li leased a property for use as a Chinese restaurant but had a friction-filled relationship with his landlord. Li was responsible for maintaining the premises but the landlord was responsible for structural repairs. The landlord's written approval was required for alterations and improvements. Breach of the lease entitled the landlord to enter the premises and remove the tenant's fixtures and chattels by force or otherwise.

Li's original landlord assigned the lease about a year after it was made, and a property inspection made at the time of the assignment revealed water drainage into the driveway, an old stove dumped behind the restaurant, containers filled with grease that were not properly raised off the ground, and an unrepaired opening in the restaurant's storm door through which vermin could enter. The new landlord notified Li that he must cure these conditions and others within 10 days. At about the same time, the restaurant was cited for maintaining a public health nuisance.

Li didn't pay rent for two months and the landlord sued for possession. The landlord amended its complaint to include other breaches of the lease. After the amended complaint was filed, the tenant destroyed the landlord's security camera and pled guilty to violation of the municipal code by housing employees at the restaurant. The landlord served Li with a notice to quit, demanding he depart within 3 days from receipt of the notice or give dates from the date of the notice, whichever was later. At trial, the landlord was awarded $11,215. Li appealed.

The tenant argued, unsuccessfully, that the landlord was required to give him notice prior to filing the action for possession. The New Jersey court reviewed the Anti-Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. §2A:18-61.1 to 61.12 and concluded it does not apply to commercial tenants. Under the Anti-Eviction Act, the landlord is required to give notice to the tenant prior to instituting an action for possession of the property. However, "the statute governing eviction in connection with non-residential leases does not contain language requiring notice prior to instituting removal proceedings."

The reason for the different treatment of residential and commercial tenants is found in the public policy of New Jersey, which is to "maintain for citizens the broadest protections available under State eviction laws to avoid ... displacement and resultant loss of affordable housing." The state of New Jersey has not expressed "similar solicitude" for commercial tenants in the context of eviction.

350 Main St. LLC v. Ren Guan Li, 2011 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 686 (App.Div. Mar. 21, 2011) [enhanced version available to subscribers]

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