Resident Not Liable for Son's Criminal Actions
Facts: A resident's 18-year-old son was arrested and found guilty in municipal court of possession of marijuana on the local housing authority's property. Based on the arrest, the housing authority attempted to evict the resident for her son's drug-related activity.
The resident had been a tenant for 19 years, and there was nothing to suggest that she was anything other than a good tenant. The housing authority testified that it never had a problem with her. In addition, the activity wasn't committed in her unit or building. And there's nothing to suggest that she had any knowledge or involvement with this activity.
The resident sued to reverse the housing authority's eviction. The trial court ruled for the resident, and the housing authority appealed.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court upheld the lower court's decision.
Reasoning: The court observed that in HUD v. Rucker, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized that a violation by an innocent tenant of federally mandated lease terms doesn't automatically require the tenant's eviction. Rather, a violation of such a lease provision permits eviction after a suitable weighing of positive and negative factors. The court observed that a full consideration of a number of factors should be taken into account before the ultimate decision is made on whether or not the tenant should be evicted.
The court determined that the relevant factors in the decision to evict that are to be taken into account by the housing authority are subject to review by the court under an "abuse of discretion" standard. Here, the court ruled that the housing authority didn't present proofs from which the court could evaluate and confirm whether the housing authority's decision to evict was a reasonable exercise of discretion.
- Housing Authority of the City of Passaic v. Jackson, November 2011