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NJ- Breaking a lease/ Right to quiet enjoyment (harassed by other tenants)

This is a discussion on NJ- Breaking a lease/ Right to quiet enjoyment (harassed by other tenants) within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; I live in an apartment complex in NJ. Last week my four year old son started being harassed by two ...

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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 08:07 PM   #1
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Unhappy NJ- Breaking a lease/ Right to quiet enjoyment (harassed by other tenants)

I live in an apartment complex in NJ. Last week my four year old son started being harassed by two male neighbors, aged 18 and 25 - one of which I know a bit - the 18 year old, and the other who I've only seen around, the 25 year old. A lot of people were outside, especially the kids, and my son wanted to ride his tricycle. So I went out with him, and he began to ride up and down the sidewalk. When my son got down to the end of our building (2), the 18 year old started "messing" with him - something that he has done many, many times before. When he was riding away from the 18 year old, he would step on the back of his tricycle, preventing him from moving, (and damaging his tricycle, also) and when my son was riding towards the 18 year old, he would "pretend" to throw a basketball at his face. He then started to chase him and pretend he was going to knock him off of his bike. I stepped in at that point and asked the 18 year old to stop picking on my son, with something along the lines of "NAME HERE", do you really have to pick on a kid, c'mon, man, leave him alone please!" He made a comment I didn't hear, and then he and the 25 year old laughed. I told my son to ride his trike on the opposite side of the apartment, going towards the other building, so as not to be near the 18 year old and the 25 year old at all. I told my son that I was going to help a friend of mine get her kids to her van - a newborn, a toddler, and a bunch of baby stuff! (about 5 feet away from where the sidewalk is) and to stay on the "other" side of the tree that's in front of our apartment. Not even a few seconds had passed when I heard a shriek from my son, and he was screaming, crying, and running towards me. Running along side of him, crouched down and grabbing at him in an "I'm going to get you" motion, and shouting "Booga Booga" in his face, was the 25 year old. My son was hysterical and terrified. I grabbed him up, and immediately screamed at the 25 year old to stop what he was doing. I will admit that I was a bit hysterical myself. I was very upset about my son being scared by a grown man, not to mention someone who is a stranger to us both, and started having a panic attack (a condition I suffer from very badly).

The 25 year old first denied being anywhere near my son, and the twenty-some people outside who witnessed the event had nothing to say. Then he admitted he WAS near my child, saying that he was "just playing with him" - when I asked, "why would you think it's playing when the kid is screaming and crying, and why wouldn't you stop?" he started laughing, and the 18 year old jumped in, making comments as well. At this point I wound up getting into a verbal confrontation telling them to stop harassing me and my son, and the 25 year old responded with, "Go the fu*k inside you crazy white bit*h" and "Don't tell us what to do" "Take your little bast*rd inside, bit*h!". (My husband is deceased, I live alone with my son.. I only assume he called my son a bast*rd because I'm a single mother.) I did in fact, go inside, as my son was terrified and begging me to go in. He was crying and didn't want to play outside anymore. Later that evening, my father's vehicle, which was parked in my parking space, was keyed. (I have no proof they did this, but it seems like an awfully big coincidence).

My son is terrified to go outside now. We've had a week of some really beautiful days, and I've brought him outside to ride his bike, and the minute another person comes outside, be they child or adult, he immediately insists on going inside. Despite my repeated attempts to get him over the inciting incident, he is simply too scared. This is not fair to my child. He's a four year old little boy, and he's being harassed by GROWN MEN! This is disturbing on so many levels. I have not been a "problem tenant" - I have never played music too loudly, nor thrown a big party, nor harassed another tenant. I have been quiet, kept to myself, and have just expected the same. You can imagine how upset I am that my rights as a tenant have been disrespected by another tenant - and not for the first time.

Six months ago, another neighbor came charging into my apartment with her teenage daughter, and in front of my (at the time 3 year old) son threatened to "kick my a$$" over some nonsense gossip she had heard. This was eventually resolved - by me going to her and asking her to please behave like an adult and talk to me. As it turned out, it wasn't me who had been gossiping - which of course I knew, but she had jumped to conclusions.

The 18 year old, who lives directly next to me in the next building, is a constant source of harassment, for both me and my son. My son is so scared of him that if we are walking from the street to the apartment and my son sees him, he hides behind the bushes and begs me to carry him. The 18 year old also repeatedly curses and speaks (even yells) openly about drugs in front of children from his porch. There have been several times that he has called out to another neighbor "hey c'mon over and smoke a blunt!" in front of kids who are outside playing, and when asked to please not 1) yell across the courtyard about drugs and 2) talk about drugs in front of children I've been told to "shut the fu*k up." The 18 year old has told my son that he will "kick is ass" and while I realize that he may intend this to be joking, I have asked him to stop, as my son is SCARED of him, to the point where he will repeatedly ask me, in tears, why the 18 year old wants to hurt him.

This has gotten very personal and troubling for me. I am afraid for my sons well-being at this point. He is very scared and it's very unhealthy. It's also unhealthy for me, as it's causing me a lot of anxiety, which of course exacerbates my medical condition. My son is too afraid to be in his own home, and for all of these reasons, my son and I left our apartment three days after this last incident and have been staying with family.

I have told my Landlord about all of the incidents save the last, which I will be telling her about tomorrow. Her response is always the same: "Work it out yourself"

My question is this: Does this qualify as a reason to break my lease (it's up April 30th anyway) for reasons of violation of The Right to Quiet Enjoyment? What I have looked up is this: A lease requires the landlord to make sure that each tenant respects the rights of other tenants. If one tenant is disturbing the other tenants by harassment or destroying the property, it is the landlord’s responsibility to make that tenant stop. Cite: Gottdiener v. Mailhot, 179 N.J. Super. 286 (App. Div. 1981). But in order for the landlord to be held responsible for any damages suffered by the tenants, one of the tenants must tell the landlord about the situation. Cite: Williams v. Gorman, 214 N.J. Super. 517 (App. Div. 1986), cert. denied, 107 N.J. 111 (1987).

Since I have informed the LL about the harassment and she did nothing, and the harassment is on-going and has gotten to the point where my son and I can no longer use the property (he refuses to come home) - do I have legal grounds to break my lease?

Thank you for any and all advice in advance.
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 08:08 PM   #2
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

What did the police say when you reported these incidents?
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Old Mar 5th, 2012, 08:21 PM   #3
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

I didn't call the police, for fear of retaliation by those two men. Probably stupid, yea, but ultimately I have to look out for my son's safety. I'd rather flee than fight.

...Not to mention that there would be no one to back up my story. Even as it happened, the entire neighborhood was outside laughing like it was all a big joke. And if they aren't friends with the two men, they are afraid of them as well. I have no proof, and nobody to stand beside me as a witness.

Last edited by Lissarae; Mar 5th, 2012 at 08:26 PM. Reason: bit more info
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Old Mar 6th, 2012, 03:08 AM   #4
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

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Originally Posted by Lissarae View Post
I didn't call the police, for fear of retaliation by those two men. Probably stupid, yea, but ultimately I have to look out for my son's safety. I'd rather flee than fight...Not to mention that there would be no one to back up my story. Even as it happened, the entire neighborhood was outside laughing like it was all a big joke. And if they aren't friends with the two men, they are afraid of them as well. I have no proof, and nobody to stand beside me as a witness.
Well then, it seems as if you are stuck unless you can make some kind of agreement with your LL to let you out of your lease. This may cost you 2 months worth of rent.

You may want to file a restraining order against the hooligans.

As for the stuff you mentioned--Gottdiener v. Mailhot, 179 N.J. Super. 286 (App. Div. 1981) and Williams v. Gorman, 214 N.J. Super. 517 (App. Div. 1986), cert. denied, 107 N.J. 111 (1987), well, you'd be going to court and that costs money and there is no guarantee that you'd win, even with citing case law.
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Old Mar 6th, 2012, 08:42 AM   #5
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

I appreciate the responses.

In terms of the stuff I mentioned - that's just cases I found when I searched for "Right to Quiet Enjoyment" and "Breaking a Lease in NJ" - I know that there's no guarantee, but there is at least precedence.

As for restraining orders, I've had a restraining order before, and in my experience, they are just a piece of paper until the person does something to you - only then can they be enforced. I really don't want to make these guys mad or invoke any retaliation, I just want to take my kid and go. My lease is nearing it's end anyway (end of April) so if I have to suck it up and hide in my apt until then, I suppose I will, but its awfully unfair to my son who should be able to go outside and play, but is too afraid to, since every time he does, he gets harassed by two grown men.

I've drawn up a letter asking my landlord to allow me to terminate my lease early due to the constant harassment. I figure it's worth a shot.

Thanks again.
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Old Mar 6th, 2012, 11:11 AM   #6
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

People are often confused when they hear of the term "right to quiet enjoyment". They mistakenly believe it means "quiet" in its most literal sense. It does not.

What it means is right to possession without interference. It has nothing to do with anything audible happening that negatively affects the owner or tenant of a property.
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Old Mar 9th, 2012, 01:44 PM   #7
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Confused Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

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People are often confused when they hear of the term "right to quiet enjoyment". They mistakenly believe it means "quiet" in its most literal sense. It does not.

What it means is right to possession without interference. It has nothing to do with anything audible happening that negatively affects the owner or tenant of a property.
I'm not confused about the meaning of the term "quiet enjoyment" - I most definitely understand the difference. Quiet enjoyment is not a guarantee of noise-free premises, nor was was my post about that at all.. I know that quiet enjoyment in the context of a residential lease does not mean undisturbed by noise, even though the word quiet is frequently used with reference to noise. Quiet enjoyment means without interference - without interruption of possession. I'm very clear on the defintion, perhaps I wasn't very clear in my post?

I know that a tenant is entitled to quiet enjoyment including, but not limited to, rights to reasonable privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, exclusive possession of the rental unit, and use of common areas for reasonable and lawful purposes, free from significant interference.

If you read my original post, while there were certainly verbal confrontations, it is the physical interference that I am upset over, and what scared my four year old son. From my original post:

Quote:
"When he was riding away from the 18 year old, he would step on the back of his tricycle, preventing him from moving, (and damaging his tricycle, also) and when my son was riding towards the 18 year old, he would "pretend" to throw a basketball at his face. He then started to chase him and pretend he was going to knock him off of his bike. Running along side of him, crouched down and grabbing at him in an "I'm going to get you" motion, and shouting "Booga Booga" in his face, was the 25 year old."
Stepping on my child's bike while he's riding it - physical interference
Damaging my son's tricycle - physical interference/destruction of property
Pretending to throw a basketball in my childs face - physical interference
Chasing my child, grabbing at him - physical interference

Yes, a verbal confrontation certainly followed, and while telling my son that he's going to "kick his ass" or telling me ""Go the fu*k inside you crazy white bit*h" and "Don't tell us what to do" "Take your little bast*rd inside, bit*h!". may NOT fit the requirement of possession without interference, what those two men did while bullying my son for thier own fun WAS physical interference, and my question was, does THAT fit the requirements for a violation of The Right to Quiet Enjoyment?
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Old Mar 9th, 2012, 02:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

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Originally Posted by Lissarae View Post
I'm not confused about the meaning of the term "quiet enjoyment" - I most definitely understand the difference. Quiet enjoyment is not a guarantee of noise-free premises, nor was was my post about that at all.. I know that quiet enjoyment in the context of a residential lease does not mean undisturbed by noise, even though the word quiet is frequently used with reference to noise. Quiet enjoyment means without interference - without interruption of possession. I'm very clear on the defintion, perhaps I wasn't very clear in my post?

I know that a tenant is entitled to quiet enjoyment including, but not limited to, rights to reasonable privacy, freedom from unreasonable disturbance, exclusive possession of the rental unit, and use of common areas for reasonable and lawful purposes, free from significant interference.

If you read my original post, while there were certainly verbal confrontations, it is the physical interference that I am upset over, and what scared my four year old son. From my original post:



Stepping on my child's bike while he's riding it - physical interference
Damaging my son's tricycle - physical interference/destruction of property
Pretending to throw a basketball in my childs face - physical interference
Chasing my child, grabbing at him - physical interference

Yes, a verbal confrontation certainly followed, and while telling my son that he's going to "kick his ass" or telling me ""Go the fu*k inside you crazy white bit*h" and "Don't tell us what to do" "Take your little bast*rd inside, bit*h!". may NOT fit the requirement of possession without interference, what those two men did while bullying my son for thier own fun WAS physical interference, and my question was, does THAT fit the requirements for a violation of The Right to Quiet Enjoyment?
No. Those would all fall under physical altercation and threats of physical altercation. Both of which you can call the police and have them charged.

You also have the option to file a Restraining Order against whoever is threatening/assaulting you and your child.

I'm glad you read my other post on another thread the definition of "quiet possession".

Unless the interference is taking place directly on or in the property in question, quiet enjoyment law does not apply.
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Old Mar 9th, 2012, 06:04 PM   #9
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Default Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

You really need to file a police report so there is a record of what these hooligans are doing to your child. You are correct in your assertion that the landlord has a duty to deal with these people who are terrorizing your child, get them to cease and desist or else he may be liable to you for any future problems they cause.

Be cautious taking advise from anonymous people who have not registered with this site. For all you know their job may involve saying, "Do you want fries with that?"

The acts you describe may fit the definition of intimidation, threats, harassment, hate speech -- all of which may stoop to criminal conduct in your state which you and your son have an absolute right to be protected from.

My suggestion is that you have a consultation with an attorney in your area who can advise how to document the situation and you may not only have a way out of your lease, your landlord have breached its covenants by not dealing with these hoodlums, but may have a cause of action for damages, including moving expenses.
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Old Mar 10th, 2012, 01:35 PM   #10
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Thumbs Up Re: NJ-Breaking a lease-Right to Quiet Enjoyment-harassed by other tenants, LL does n

Quote:
Unless the interference is taking place directly on or in the property in question, quiet enjoyment law does not apply.
Of course the interference took place directly on the property... why else would I be involving the Landlord???


Quote:
Originally Posted by Friend In Court View Post
You really need to file a police report so there is a record of what these hooligans are doing to your child. You are correct in your assertion that the landlord has a duty to deal with these people who are terrorizing your child, get them to cease and desist or else he may be liable to you for any future problems they cause.

Be cautious taking advise from anonymous people who have not registered with this site. For all you know their job may involve saying, "Do you want fries with that?"

The acts you describe may fit the definition of intimidation, threats, harassment, hate speech -- all of which may stoop to criminal conduct in your state which you and your son have an absolute right to be protected from.

My suggestion is that you have a consultation with an attorney in your area who can advise how to document the situation and you may not only have a way out of your lease, your landlord have breached its covenants by not dealing with these hoodlums, but may have a cause of action for damages, including moving expenses.
Thank you for this advice, it was very helpful. I had already notified my landlord in writing (sent certified, with receipt required) about the incident, as well as telling her I wished to terminate my lease (which is up April 30) early because my son is scared to go home. We haven't stayed in the apt since, actually. We're staying with family, and will continue to do so until we move. Her response is that she wants to try "mediation" - I agreed that I would attend, but how on earth is mediation going to alleviate the fears of a 4 year old boy?

My question now is this: This incident happened Feb. 23. Is it too late to call the police? I didn't do it at the time for fear of provoking them. I will be there Monday for "mediation" and I'm going to call Legal Aid - I can't afford a lawyer - hopefully they can help me with this matter. I was hoping not to drag it out, I figured if she would just allow me to break the lease, I could leave and that would be the end of it. If this winds up going to court... who knows how long it could drag out? Anyway, thank you very much for your advice!
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