Disorderly Persons Offense Grounds to Disposses Public Housing Tenant

A disorderly persons offense (DP) in New Jersey is a petty offense that is handled in municipal court. These types of offenses include simple assault and harassment. In the recent case of Housing and Redev. Auth. of Twp. of Franklin v. Miller, A-2463-06, the court held that a tenant may be evicted from federally subsidized public housing upon conviction for a disorderly persons offense. The court held that a statute allowing eviction for “criminal activity” (known as the one-strike law) should be read broadly, consistent with its purpose of making public housing safe. Therefore, Judge Donald Coburn’s panel found no intention by Congress to exclude petty offenses from the “criminal activity” that justifies eviction. A Somerset County Superior Court judge found that the housing authority was within its rights to terminate the lease under 42 U.S.C.A. 1437d(1)(6), which requires that leases of federally subsidized housing provide that “any criminal activity that threatens the health, safety, or right to peaceful enjoyment of the premises by other tenants or any drug related criminal activity on or off such premises, engaged in by a public household tenant, any member of the person’s household, or any guest or other person under the tenant’s control, shall be good cause for termination of the tenancy.” On appeal, the judges agreed that a DP offense was included in criminal activity sufficient to warrant eviction.

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