In this landlord-tenant case, the court was charged with deciding whether the City of Newark’s rent control ordinance prohibited the assessment of “additional rent,” for purposes of a summary dispossess action, if the total amount assessed, including this contractually provided for “additional rent,” exceeded the maximum rent permitted by the ordinance. The court answered the question in the affirmative.
This was an action seeking eviction for non-payment of rent. The tenant brought a motion arguing that the local rent control ordinance prohibited the incorporation of additional rent of the kind that was at issue in a summary dispossess action. The tenant argued that the ordinance established a maximum rent cap and any rent that exceeded that amount could not form a basis for eviction. The tenant further argued that regardless of whether defined as “additional rent,” fees should be considered in the ordinance’s definition of “rent” and thus capped thereby. The landlord countered that assessing the additional rent was not contrary to the subject ordinance and the lease expressly provided for such assessment. The landlord further argued that the fees sought are such a common form of additional rent that the local ordinance’s failure to specifically exclude it in the definition should be understood to be mean that the ordinance does not prohibit it.
The court held that the landlord was not entitled to evict the tenant based upon the failure to pay the “additional rent,” notwithstanding that the lease memorialized that legal and late fees were collectible as “additional rent.” The court found that the total amount of rent that could be assessed and thus put at issue in a summary dispossess case was limited by the local ordinance. The court established that the assessment of “additional rent” is still the imposition of rent, and because the ordinance governs all rent without exception, the rent could not exceed the municipal ordinance rate cap. Accordingly, the landlord was disallowed from seeking any rents in excess of the maximum rent permitted by the ordinance in a summary dispossess action. The landlord’s contractual remedy was preserved.