Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – June 7, 2014 Update

Real Cases in Real Estate By Andrea Lee Negroni, Esq. – June 7, 2014 Update

Updates for the Week of June 7, 2014

New Jersey landlord failing to verify applicant’s employment before signing a lease couldn’t evict the tenant because she was unemployed when she moved in. Regina Carstarphen applied to rent a Section 8 (government-subsidized rent) apartment from Centennial Village Apartments in Camden, New Jersey, in August 2011. In her application she said she was employed at Walmart. There was no apartment available at Centennial Village at the time, so the landlord kept her on a waiting list. Six months later, the landlord wrote to ask if she was still interested in the apartment. The landlord said it simultaneously mailed Regina a letter explaining its preference for tenants employed at least six consecutive months.

Regina responded that she was still interested in the apartment, but said she never got the letter about the landlord’s preference for employed tenants. In June 2012, an apartment was available and Regina signed a lease in August 2013, a year after she filled out the rental application. Immediately after moving in, she requested an adjustment of her rent based on unemployment. The landlord responded by claiming she was untruthful in her rental application and threatened to terminate her lease unless she updated her rental application with correct information.

Regina responded that her application was truthful and asked for specific details about what the landlord thought was untruthful; the landlord then sent an eviction notice, which Regina challenged.

The trial judge found Regina was untruthful in her application and entered judgment for the landlord. Regina’s appeal succeeded, because the appeals court found the landlord didn’t satisfy the notice requirements of the National Housing Act or the New Jersey Anti-Eviction Act before seeking possession of the apartment. The crux of the case is that Regina filled in an accurate rental application, but in the year between her application and signing a lease, her situation changed for the worse.

The landlord apparently didn’t require her to update employment information in her application or verify her employment with Walmart. The landlord didn’t tell Regina she was being evicted based on her failure to give notice of unemployment when she signed the lease; rather, the eviction notice stated she provided untruthful information when she signed the lease. That was the problem – the information she provided was true when she made her application, but was untrue when she signed the lease. 

Centennial Village Apartments v. Carstarphen, N.J. Super. Appellate Division, No. LT-9996-12 (March 25, 2014) (unpublished), [enhanced version available to lexis.com subscribers].

Real Cases in Real Estate is a periodic 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.

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