Rampersaud v. Hollingsworth

Rampersaud v. Hollingsworth, - Decided 11/1/18. Hollingsworth was the main tenant and sublet to Clayton, who was also listed as a defendant. Clayton did the complained of damage.

Defendant Hollingsworth appealed. One of the arguments under appeal was that the eviction should only apply to Clayton because 61.1(c) refers to “the person” who has willfully or by reason of gross negligence caused or allowed destruction, damage or injury to the premises. Defendant argued that this was a narrower class of people than those covered in the preamble “No lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant may be removed….”

The Court found that that the Legislature deliberately used "the person" in N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1(c) in order to provide flexibility in the statute's application and enforcement and that the Legislature intended a broad view of who or what might be "the person" whose actions bring about the event that triggers a ground for terminating a tenancy.” Therefore “the person” could include “those described in the preamble, some smaller subset of that group,  or even someone outside the preamble’s description.”

The Court also reasoned that even if it accepted Defendant’s argument, the judgement is proper because in subletting to Clayton, Hollingsworth “allowed destruction, damage or injury to the premises.”  This latter reasoning is troubling for any possible argument to try to overturn, or at least chip away at, Muros v. Morales (App. Div. 1993) (regarding an ability to cure), where the individual who cause the damage moves out.