A New jersey appeals court ruled that a tenant can be thrown out of an apartment for damage to the unit even if it was a subtenant who was directly responsible.
A three-judge Appellate Division panel, in a published ruling, said liability for such damage falls on tenant and subtenant alike.
“We reject the tenant’s strained interpretation of the Anti-Eviction Act … and conclude that an act of one permits the eviction of all,” wrote Appellate Division Judge Clarkson Fisher Jr. for the panel in Rampersaud v. Hollingsworth.
Judges Richard Geiger and Lisa Firko joined in the Nov. 1 ruling.
According to the decision, the lead tenant in question, Richard Hollingsworth, leased the rent-controlled apartment in Jersey City on a month-by-month basis in 1981. Eventually, the building was purchased by the current owners, Dexter and Seleema Rampersaud.
For a six-month period in 2016, Hollingsworth sublet the apartment to a man named Carlos Crayton, who severely damaged the rear door of the apartment to the extent that the door was removed from the frame and the molding was ruined, according to the court.
The Rampersauds then moved to evict both Crayton and Hollingsworth.
A Hudson Country Superior Court judge eventually sided with the Rampersauds and granted them possession.
Hollingsworth appealed, contending that the judge read the Anti-Eviction Act too restrictively in favor of landlords.
The appeals court panel disagreed.
“In appealing, the tenant [Hollingsworth] argues that [the statute] cannot support a judgment against him in these circumstances and that the notice to quit was not sufficiently specific,” Fisher said. “We find no merit in either argument.”
The Anti-Eviction Act, broadly read, defines a “person” as one who “allowed” the damage to occur, and that definition includes Hollingsworth, Fisher said.
The phrasing of the statute—given a sensible reading—must necessarily include a circumstance when a tenant allows another onto the premises and that other person causes the damage that warrants eviction, Fisher said.
“Only a judicial rewriting based solely on some novel equitable theory would permit a construction that only Crayton and not the tenant should have been evicted,” Fisher said.
Jersey City solo Vincent D’Elia represented Hollingsworth in the unsuccessful appeal, while Thomas Major of the Major Law Firm in Jersey City represented the Rampersauds.
Neither returned calls seeking comment.