Appeals Court Denies Relocation Benefits to Bloomfield Property Owner

by: Anthony F. Della Pelle
25 Feb 2010

A New Jersey appellate court affirmed the denial of relocation benefits to a former property owner (Jeanny Sung Koo) in a redevelopment area in the Township of Bloomfield after she signed a lease to relocate to a new location where an initial offer to purchase her property had been made, and negotiations ensued, but the project stalled.  The court stated that, in order for the property owner to qualify as a displaced person, “the government agency must acquire the property or order the tenant to vacate the property.”  Although Koo was temporarily eligible for a short period of time after the Township made its initial offer, she became ineligible because she willingly sold her property to a third party that was not the designated redeveloper.

 Additionally, the court found that Bloomfield’s notification outlining eligibility for relocation assistance did not amount to a misrepresentation that the property owner would receive relocation payments even though the Township had previously provided relocation assistance payment to the property owner’s tenant (who relocated) despite the owner’s complaint that such disparate treatment amounted to a violation of the owner’s constitutional right to equal protection under the law.  Based on plaintiff’s failure to qualify as a displaced person, or to prove a misrepresentation on the part of the Township, the court denied Koo’s relocation claim.

 A copy of the Appellate Division’s opinion in Glenwood Avenue (Jeanny Sung Koo) v. Twp. of Bloomfield, A-3169-08, (App. Div. Feb. 24, 2010), can be found here.

Apparently, the basis for this opinion was that the owner did not have the right to rely upon the representations and actions of the Township, which included a series of negotiations regarding the potential purchase of its property, notice from the Township regarding the project and the occupants’ right to relocation assistance,  notice from the property owner regarding the new replacement location it had leased, and the relocation assistance that the Township had actually provided to the owner’s tenant who also occupied a portion of the owner’s property before the owner sold the property to an unrelated third party.

The author wishes to acknowledge the assistance of Cory K. Kestner, Esq., of McKirdy & Riskin, PA, in the preparation of this article.