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1 N.J.A.R. 351

Pennsville, Township of; McCauley, Mrs. John v
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Citation: 1 N.J.A.R. 351
Decision Date:
Synopsis: Mrs. John McCauley, a tenant in a single family house located in Pennsville Township, applied to that Township for relocation assistance. The Township denied the request taking the position that it was not responsible for any assistance. A hearing was requested and the matter heard before an administrative law judge. The administrative law judge found that in May 1978, Mrs. McCauley made an oral complaint about conditions in her leased premises to the Pennsville Township building inspector. After an inspection of the property, the inspector informed the landlord that various violations of the building code existed. The landlord told the inspector that repairs would be made and asked that a condemnation sign be posted on the property in the interim. After a condemnation sign had been posted and a form condemnation notice sent to the landlord, the landlord advised the building inspector that repairs would not be made and that Mrs. McCauley would be evicted. On a reinspection visit approximately five months later, the inspector found that some violations had been corrected but that others had not. The administrative law judge found that following this reinspection, the inspector never returned to the property and never followed through with the provision of the Township's ordinance dealing with the condemnation of unfit buildings. In March 1979, the landlord began District Court proceedings to evict Mrs. McCauley based on N.J.S.A. 2A: 18-61.1 (g) which permits a landlord who has been cited for violations by a governmental entity and has determined that repairs are economically unfeasible to seek eviction of his tenant. At the same time, Mrs. McCauley's attorney applied for relocation assistance under N.J.S.A. 52:13B-1 on Mrs. McCauley's behalf. The Township denied the assistance on the basis that it was not causing Mrs. McCauley's displacement. In September 1979, the District Court granted judgment for possession in favor of the landlord but required that no warrant of possession be issued until the requirements of N.J.S.A. 52:13B-1 (governing relocation assistance) be complied with. A renewed request for relocation assistance was made to the Township and the request was again denied. The administrative law judge concluded that the Township was indeed the displacing agency and thus responsible for providing relocation assistance. The judge based his conclusion on a finding that the building inspector was acting within the scope of his official duties when he first visited the property, observed violations and issued a notice of condemnation; thus, the inspector's actions were the actions of the Township. While the building inspect(),'s actions did not comport with the ordinance requirements, the administrative law judge concluded that it was clear the inspector never acted to revoke the condemnation or to advise any party that there had not been, in fact, a condemnation. The administrative law judge also concluded that the Township could not raise the issue in this administrative proceeding of the economic feasibility of making the repairs since it could and should have proceeded in District Court to prevent the eviction if it felt that the landlord could have feasibly repaired the property. Accordingly, the judge ordered that the Township provide the appropriate relocation assistance to Mrs. McCauley. Joel Solow, Esq., for Petitioner (Camden Regional Legal Services, Inc.) Andrew Rhea, Esq., for Respondent