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2014, the Year that Was: NJ Eviction of a Subetter Claiming to be a Co-Tenant

A residential landlord client received financing for his building from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. In exchange for this financing, Landlord had to maintain a certain amount of low-income units in the building. This financing agreement serves the noble purpose of diversifying buildings, neighborhoods and cities. It has the added virtue of being successful. Unfortunately, it is subject to abuse. In this case, the tenant on the lease did not live in her low income unit. Instead, she lived far out of state and sublet her unit to the highest bidder. This conduct violated her lease, the landlord’s rules and terms of the financing agreement. The Firm represented the Landlord in a case to evict the subletter.

At trial, the subletter argued that he is a functional co-tenant in fact under Maglies v. Estate of Guy, 193 N.J. 108 (2007). New Jersey residential landlord-tenant law allows for a person to have all the protection of a bona fide tenant even if that person is not named on the lease. This “co-tenant in fact” doctrine is designed to protect legitimate tenants from being evited by landlords simply because they are not on the lease. Unfortunately, this law is also subject to abuse.
At trial, the subletter tried to show that he paid the rent directly to the Landlord, that the Landlord knew he paid the rent and the Landlord had no problem with him. None of this was true. Instead, the subletter logged into the tenants online-payment account and paid as if he were the tenant. The subletter’s scheme prevented the Landlord from knowing that the Tenant did not live in the apartment.
After cross-examination and closing argument, the Court ruled in the Landlord’s favor. The Court did not believe the subletter’s testimony and agreed with the Firm’s arguments that the sub-letter was not a co-tenant in fact. Ultimately, the tenant and subletter were evicted. Later, the Landlord rented the low income unit to a qualifying tenant who continues to live in the building without incident.
Offit Kurman practices landlord tenant law throughout New Jersey assisting landlords and tenants in avoiding unnecessary and costly delays. The firm’s geographic practice area includes: New Jersey (Jersey City, Hoboken, Bayonne, Hudson County, Newark, Essex County, Woodbridge, Middlesex County, Paterson, Passaic County, Bergen County). The Firm invites you to visit the “Promises” page for our new way of doing business