Owner Gave Inadequate Eviction Notice
Facts: An owner of a Section 8 project-based site sued to evict a resident for false information she allegedly provided on her application for a unit. In August 2011, the resident completed an application in which she truthfully reported that she was employed by Walmart and was not on medical leave. Because there was no unit available at the time, the owner placed her name on a waiting list.
In March 2012, the owner sent the applicant a letter asking if she was still interested in the unit and requested updated information. The owner also claimed that a second letter was sent at the time explaining its site preference for applicants employed for a minimum of six consecutive months. The resident returned an updated questionnaire advising of her continued interest in the unit. She denied receipt of the second letter.
In June, the owner notified her of an available unit. The resident returned to sign the lease. She tendered her security deposit, paid her prorated first month’s rent, and was told she could move in immediately. She didn’t advise the owner that she had been fired from her job two weeks before for not showing up for work. Five days after she moved in, the resident requested an interim adjustment of her rent, in accordance with the site’s subsidy program because she was no longer employed.
The lease she signed states that giving false information to the owner about income “or other factors considered in determining resident’s eligibility and rent is material noncompliance with the lease subject to termination of tenancy.” The owner sent a notice advising the resident that she was in violation of her lease for providing false information on the rental application.
At trial, the owner argued that the resident committed fraud in the application process, alleging that she knew of the preference in the site’s resident selection plan for continuously employed residents, she was aware of her duty to disclose any changes in the information provided on her application, and when she signed the lease she failed to disclose that she was no longer working. The judge found that the owner advised the resident of the six-month continuous work requirement and concluded that the resident had been untruthful in the application process. The judge entered a judgment for the owner, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court reversed the lower court’s ruling.
Reasoning: The appeals court found that the notices sent to the resident didn’t adequately inform the resident of the ground on which the owner sought eviction. The lower court based its ruling on the resident having been “untruthful at the time she entered into the lease on August 22.” But the termination notice specified that the resident provided false information in the rental application she submitted the year before she entered into the lease. As a result, the owner didn’t provide notice that it was evicting her because she was obligated to advise that she was unemployed at the time she signed the lease and failed to do so.
- Centennial Village v. Carstarphen, March 2014