Court Rules that Tenants’ Counterclaim Blocked By Previous Pay-and-Go Settlement

Share This Post

A recent decision by a New Jersey appellate court panel establishes a new issue for many future landlord tenant cases,  that will prevent parties from raising issues related to a tenancy after reaching a “pay-and-go” consent judgment. In Raji v. Saucedo, the court upheld the trial court’s ruling the defendant’s counterclaim was barred because it was based on a claim known to the tenants while they were negotiating the consent judgment and should have been raised then.

The Facts

The case in question began in 2012 when Marisol Raji moved out of her home after her husband passed away and offered to sell it to her friends Alfonso Saucedo and Munoz Munoz. At the time, Saucedo and Munoz were unable to secure financing,  so Raji agreed to lease the house to them. Part of their agreement was that Saucedo and Munoz would handle the costs associated with the maintenance of the property.

This arrangement continued for five years, and Saucedo and Munoz fell behind on the rent in December of 2017. By January of 2018, the parties entered into a consent pay-and-go judgment that provided Raji entitlement to immediate possession of the property and fixed Saucedo’s and Munoz’s financial obligations. The judgment provided a schedule of payments and allowed Saucedo and Munoz to stay in the property until March 31st, 2018, provided they complied with the payment schedule.

Saucedo and Munoz failed to make their initial payment and were eventually locked out. Raji filed an action in 2018 to collect on the financial aspects of the consent judgment, and Saucedo and Munoz filed a counterclaim alleging unjust enrichment of nearly $9000 based on the fact that they had replaced a pool liner in November in 2016 and other pool-related expenses.

The trial court determined  the parties had reached an accord and satisfaction of the issues related to the tenancy in the pay-and-go judgment of January 2017, in which all rights and liabilities concerning the tenancy were fixed. As a result, Saucedo and Munoz were precluded from filing a counterclaim regarding the pool-related costs in this action. On appeal, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.

What this Case Means for Landlords and Tenants

Although this case may seem technical, the takeaway from it is fairly simple: if you have claims related to a tenancy and are negotiating a pay-and-go settlement that will be enforced in a consent judgment, you need to be sure to address all issues related to the tenancy then, as you will not be able to raise them later. The most effective way to ensure that your pay-and-go agreement addresses everything that needs to be addressed is to work with an experienced attorney throughout the negotiations.

Call Us Today to Schedule a Consultation with a Union County Landlord-Tenant Attorney

If you are a landlord seeking to remove problem tenants through a pay-and-go judgment or any other means, it’s in your best interest to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as you can. Since 2008, the Law Office of Lawrence M. Centanni, P.C., has been representing landlords involved in disputes and works with individuals and businesses in Union, Somerset, Essex, Morris, Middlesex, and Monmouth counties. Call us today at 908-351-0028 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.

More To Explore