PHA Allowed to Evict Vacationing Resident
Facts: A PHA resident lived in a unit with her three daughters. Before traveling abroad, she gave her adult son a key "to check on the apartment." While the resident was away, firefighters entered her unit and found a dog tied to a radiator near a stove, which had all four burner knobs on, but with only one lit pilot. A maintenance worker had notified the fire department of a noxious odor coming from the resident's unit, and the resident conceded that the dog probably turned the stove's knobs on while trying to free itself.
The fire captain testified that the unit’s gas meter readings were so high that an explosion could have occurred. He further testified that the dog appeared panicked and had to deal with low oxygen levels because of the alarming amount of gas in the air. The captain also ordered the building’s other residents to remain in their units for half an hour.
The following month the PHA sent the resident an eviction notice and eventually sued to evict her on the basis of negligent damages to the premises, violation of rules, and violation of lease covenants. The trial court ruled for the PHA. The resident appealed on the basis that the son wasn't a "covered person" under the lease and no actual damage had occurred.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court agreed with the lower court's decision.
Reasoning: The resident's son was a covered person according to the lease. The lease defines a covered person as "an umbrella term including, in addition to the tenant, guests, members of the tenant's household, and other persons under the tenant's control." Also, a criminal conviction or arrest isn’t necessary for the lease to be terminated. The court stated that criminal activity alone is cause for eviction. The resident's son was the only person with a key to enter the resident's unit, and he committed animal cruelty by depriving a dog of adequate oxygen, which put the dog in a hyperactive state. In turn, this criminal activity threatened the health or safety of other residents or their right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises.
- Housing Authority of the City of Bayonne v. Hernandez, December 2012