Resident Violated Lease by Harboring Unauthorized Occupant
Facts: A resident who qualified for a Section 8 housing subsidy signed a lease agreement identifying her as the sole occupant of the unit. In March 2015, the owner issued a notice demanding the resident cease activity that violated the lease. Specifically, the notice instructed her to cease conduct identified as: (1) disturbing the peace, including “disturbances and heavy traffic in and out of [the] apartment,” “loitering, numerous guests and other disturbances”; and (2) “harboring a female unauthorized occupant in the leased premises.” The notice warned that her failure to cease the impermissible activity and remove the unauthorized occupant within 10 days would result in the owner’s termination of the lease.
A “Notice Terminating Lease” was issued in April 2015, citing the resident's failure to comply with the prior Notice to Cease, by her continued conduct of “disturb[ing] the peace and quiet of other residents” and “harboring a female unauthorized occupant in the leased premises as well as three other adult unauthorized occupants and multiple children.” The notice further instructed that she “must quit and vacate said premises on or before May 31, 2015.”
At the eviction trial, the owner introduced the lease and issued notices, and presented testimony from the assistant property manager and a maintenance employee. The property manager testified that the unauthorized female occupant went to her office seeking to lease a unit and gave the manager her driver’s license, which listed the resident’s unit as her address. The manager asked how the unauthorized occupant was living in the complex and was told she lived “with a friend.” This prompted the issuance of the Notice to Cease.
Further, the assistant manager, who opens and closes the site’s playground, which is located adjacent to the resident’s unit, observed the unauthorized occupant “coming and going,” at “all different times of the day” after the owner issued the notice. In addition, she saw “numerous children . . . always in there” and an adult male and females in addition to the female unauthorized occupant in the unit.
The resident testified that the female unauthorized occupant was “[o]ne of [her] best friends,” but insisted she lives alone in her unit. She said her friend's driver’s license lists the address of her sister. On cross-examination, however, the resident responded that her friend “don’t [sic] even have a driver’s license.”
The trial court ruled for the owner and granted possession of the apartment. The resident asked the court to reconsider the judgment of possession. The judge denied the resident’s request, and the resident appealed.
Ruling: A New Jersey appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling.
Reasoning: The trial judge found the manager and maintenance employee’s testimony credible regarding seeing the unauthorized occupant routinely entering and exiting the resident’s apartment over an extended period. In contrast, the judge found the resident’s testimony “completely not credible,” as it had inconsistencies and contradictions. The judge found the unauthorized occupant had presented a driver’s license to the assistant manager that listed the resident’s address as her own. Although the resident testified this was untrue, her added statements that the occupant used her sister’s address and that she didn’t have a driver’s license were contradictions causing the judge to reject the resident’s testimony entirely, finding her not truthful. The appeals court accepted the lower court’s conclusion.
- Mansions Apartments v. Husband, April 2017