Evicting an Employee After Termination of Employment
As most landlords in this state are aware, the very restrictive provisions of the Anti-Eviction Act do permit an eviction based upon the termination of employment by resident staff.
More specifically the statute provides, at N.J.S.A. 2a:18-61.1 that you can secure judgment for possession where:
“(m) The landlord or owner conditioned the tenancy upon and in consideration for the tenant’s employment by the landlord or owner as superintendent, janitor or in some other capacity and such employment is being terminated.”
This permits the eviction of resident managers, maintenance staff, janitors, superintendents or those hired “in some other capacity.”
The key language focused on in cases which have attempted to address eviction under this section appears to be “. . .conditioned the tenancy upon and in consideration for tenant’s employment. . .”.
Typically providing the tenancy “in consideration for the employment” is thought to be addressed by allowing occupancy without requiring rent payment or with some discount in rent payment. The courts have not limited their analysis to who pays when addressing this issue. Instead decisions involving enforcement of these statutory rights on the part of landlords have addressed whether or not the tenancy commenced “simultaneously” with the employment. If the tenancy predated the employment, then the Courts have held that the pre-existing tenant had no reason to believe or to understand that upon termination of employment the tenant’s pre-existing tenancy would also be adversely affected. Accordingly, the cases have indicated that the provision of housing must commence “simultaneously” with the tenant’s employment. Kearny Court Associates v. Spence, 262 N.J. Super. 241 (App. Div. 1993); Village Associates v. Perez, 253 N.J. Super. 507 (Law Div. 1991); and Cruz v. Reatique, 212 N.J. Super. 195 (Law Div. 1986).
In addition, these cases stand for the proposition that the landlord must prove that the premises in question is in fact devoted for use by employees and that there is a history of requiring residency in the premises on the part of the employee whose position has just been terminated. The successor employee must be slotted for occupancy in that unit.
Accordingly, the State Statute only requires one three day notice to quit before commencement of this action. Although it has not been stated in these cases, it is implied that eviction proceedings must commence quickly after termination in order to verify that landlord “needs” the property for the successor employee.
No reported decisions have involved cases where written employment contracts or any type of contractual documentation linking the tenancy with employment existed. Obviously, it would be wise to establish, by written agreement, the fact that the tenancy is “conditioned. . .upon and in consideration for the tenant’s employment. . .”. This type of documentation could take away the argument that a pre-existing tenant undertook employment with the expectation that the tenancy could continue after the employment was terminated. The existence of such an agreement would give the landlord an argument to avoid the ruling of the three cases described above, all of which involve tenancies which pre-existed employment. Landlords may be concerned about the possibility of having to “live with” a discharged employee as a tenant whenever that may be the case. The Landlord-Employer should not hire existing tenants, even with an agreement, since the prevailing case law would not guarantee a post-employment eviction under those circumstances.
By Christopher J. Hanlon, Esq., a NJ Landlord Attorney
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