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Kwok Fang Chang Trust v. Estate of Sylvia Malakoff

Kwok Fang Chang Trust v. Estate of Sylvia Malakoff - Tenant, Sylvia Malakoff, signed a lease with a death clause whereby the lease would terminate upon her death. Prior to tenant’s death, her son, Jay, and grandson, Eitan, resided with her. Jay had resided with tenant for thirty four years. Landlords knew of his existence. In fact, when landlord demanded payment for the water bill, the landlord would send an invoice addressed to “Tenant: Jay Malakoff.

After Sylvia passed away, the landlords sought to enforce the lease and served Jay and Eitan with notices pursuant to N.J.S.A 2A:61.1(e)(1). Jay and Eitan refused to vacate the premises. As a result, the landlords sought to evict tenants pursuant to N.J.S.A 2A:61.1(e)(1). Jay and Eitan argued that they were functional tenants and applied the three prong test set forth in Maglies v. Estate of Guy, 193 N.J. 108 (2007) 1) continuous residency in the premises; 2) substantial contribution to the tenancy’s financial obligations; and 3) the “contribution has been acknowledged and acquiesced to by [the] landlord.” The trial court found that Jay and Eitan met the three prong test. Jay had continuous residency; as the landlord saw; Jay contributed to the payment of rent as evidenced by the checks in both Sylvia’s and his names as well as with Jay’s payment of the water bill; and testimony on the record showed that the landlord acknowledged and acquiesced to the contribution of the tenancy.

The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Division. They argued that the Maglies did not apply because Maglies involved a Section 8 tenancy and Malakoffs were not Section 8 tenants. The Appellate Division disagreed with the plaintiff’s reasoning and held that the Court in Maglies “did not state directly or indirectly that the Maglies test applied exclusively to Section 8 recipients.” The Appellate Division reaffirmed the holding of the trial court and found that based on the totality of the circumstances at the time of tenant’s death and the three factors set forth in Maglies, Jay and Eitan were indeed functional tenants and subject to protection under the Anti-Eviction Act.

This is an unpublished opinion and does not constitute precedent nor is binding upon any court.