Law Lessons from SARA PROPERTIES, LLC. v. FREWEINI NEGUSSE, ESX-LT-2244-13, Fast, J.S.C., Ret & t/a on recall, February 20, 2013:
A tenancy at will is one where a tenant has entered the property with permission for an indefinite period, holding during the joint wills of the parties, either party having the right to terminate the tenancy at any time. Standard Realty Co. v. Gates, 99 N.J. Eq. 271, 275 (N.J. Ch. 1925). At common law, a tenancy at will could be terminated at any time by any act of either the landlord or the tenant which was inconsistent with the tenancy’s continuance, and such a tenancy could even be terminated by implication of law, for example, if either party died. No notice was necessary to effect such termination. The common-law rule respecting notice to tenants at will has been changed by statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56a, which requires a three months’ notice to terminate a tenancy at will. The reason for the requirement that notice of the termination of the tenancy be given is the indefiniteness and uncertainty of the duration of such a tenancy and the protection of each of the parties thereto against capriciousness on the part of the other. Pennsylvania Railroad Co. v. L. Albert & Son, Inc., 26 N.J. Super. 508, 511 (App. Div. 1953). Gretkowski v. Wojieckowski, 26 N.J. Super. 245 (App. Div. 1953), also required a three months’ notice to terminate a tenancy at will.
Landlord – Tenant and Related Issues in the Superior Court of New Jersey, 4th Ed., Mahlon L. Fast, J.S.C., Ret, As Updated and Modified by Bruce Gudin, Esq. (Pub. New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education)
See also, Gretkowski v. Wojieckowski, 26 N.J. Super. 245 (App. Div. 1953):
In New Jersey, from an early day, our decisions have given considerably more stability to an estate at will than is suggested by the foregoing quotations. In McEowen v. Drake, 14 N.J.L. 523 (Sup. Ct. 1835), it was held that in all tenancies at will the tenant is entitled to half a year’s notice to quit. We parenthetically note that by force of what used to be our Landlord and Tenant Act and is now N.J.S. 2A:18-56, the requisite notice to quit is three months instead of six. Standard Realty Co. v. Gates, 99 N.J. Eq. 271 (Ch. 1926). In Katz v. Inglis, 109 N.J.L. 54 (E. & A. 1932), it was even held that the notice must expire at the end of the current year of the tenancy. But the tenancy at will there under consideration arose by operation of the statute of frauds upon an oral lease. R.S. 25:1-1. The decision made the tenancy at will the equivalent of a tenancy from year to year. While that is a reasonable result of the ineffectual effort by the parties to create a term of three years or more, we doubt if the same rule should be applied to an ordinary tenancy at will, like the one now under consideration. See 51 C.J.S., Landlord & Tenant, §173(b). At any rate, it is clear that the defendant Wojciechowski was entitled to three months’ notice to quit — unless one of the factors now to be considered leads to a different conclusion.
Our New Jersey requirement of three months’ or six months’ notice makes the tenancy at will a much more substantial estate than it was considered to be at an earlier period. Such a requirement, operative in the ordinary case, seems inconsistent with the old rule that a sale by the landlord, or the death of the landlord, puts an immediate end to the tenancy. The notice to the tenant which our law requires, is intended for his protection, to give him time to readjust his affairs; it is as appropriate in one case as another. In our opinion, the death of the lessor does not determine the tenancy. See American Law of Property (1952), § 3.31.
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-56, Proof of notice to quit prerequisite to judgment:
No judgment for possession in cases specified in paragraph “a.” of section 2A:18-53 of this Title shall be ordered unless:
a. The tenancy, if a tenancy at will or from year to year, has been terminated by the giving of 3 months’ notice to quit, which notice shall be deemed to be sufficient;
N.J.S.A. 2A:18-61.1, Grounds for removal of tenants.
2. No lessee or tenant or the assigns, under-tenants or legal representatives of such lessee or tenant may be removed by the Superior Court from any house, building, mobile home or land in a mobile home park or tenement leased for residential purposes, … except upon establishment of one of the following grounds as good cause:
i. The landlord or owner proposes, at the termination of a lease, reasonable changes of substance in the terms and conditions of the lease, including specifically any change in the term thereof, which the tenant, after written notice, refuses to accept; …
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