Resident Evicted for Assault and Threats Against Manager
Facts: In October 2017, a PHA sent a resident an eviction notice explaining that she had breached her lease by threatening and punching the site manager, violently smacking a clipboard from the manager’s hands, and physically injuring her. The notice identified sections of the lease that the resident had breached, and it explained the legal basis for evicting her. The PHA relied on state law, which prohibited assaulting or threatening an employee of a landlord, and HUD Handbook 4350.3, Section 8-14, which allows owners to terminate tenancy for “any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other residents (including property management staff residing on the premises).”
After the notice was issued, the resident didn’t vacate the premises, which led to an eviction complaint in which the PHA contended that she was a holdover tenant. The trial court judge found the manager to be credible. The judge also found that the resident threatened the manager while armed with a metal cane. The judge found the resident guilty of assault and terroristic threats by a preponderance of the evidence and concluded that she breached the lease. The judge ruled for the PHA, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision.
Reasoning: The appeals court found no basis to overturn the lower court’s decision and found that the judge had applied the law correctly. The fact-findings of a judge sitting without a jury are “considered binding on appeal when supported by adequate, substantial and credible evidence.” The court would not disturb the judge’s findings unless it was “convinced that they are so manifestly unsupported by or inconsistent with the competent, relevant and reasonably credible evidence as to offend the interests of justice.”
- Newark PHA v. Murphy, February 2019