The New Jersey Appellate Division recently made it a little easier for commercial landlords to evict their tenants. Under N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53(c), commercial landlords can evict tenants who breach or otherwise violate the terms of their leases “after the landlord or his agent for that purpose has caused a written notice of the termination of said tenancy to be served upon said tenant and a demand that said tenant remove from said premises.” According to the statute, the notice must specify the cause of the termination and must be served on the tenant. The Appellate Division, in an unpublished decision, 350 Main Street LLC v. Ren Guan Li d/b/a Sun Hing Restaurant, A-3265-09T4 (March 21, 2011), found that unlike the notice provision found in the Anti Eviction Act, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1 to -61.12, which governs residential leases, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 does not require that notice be given prior to a landlord instituting eviction proceedings. The court found nothing in the plain language of N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 substantiating the tenant’s contention that notice need be served prior to commencing suit, nor is N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 subject to the same important public policy goals of the Anti Eviction Act which if it had been, might have called for a more liberal reading.
The court further found that the purpose of the notice requirement found in N.J.S.A.2A:18-53 is to permit a defendant to prepare a defense, and that even a well-pled complaint stating with specificity the events of default upon which the landlord was placing reliance could be sufficient to permit a tenant to mount such a defense, particularly if the matter was proceeding as a plenary proceeding where discovery was available.