Converted Garages as Living Space: What You Need to Know

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No doubt you already realize the challenge of finding affordable rentals in New Jersey.  For example, you may notice that some homeowners in cities like Elizabeth and Linden have converted garages into living space.  Is it legal to move into a converted garage?  Or, could your tenancy be short-lived?

For the prospective landlord renting out a converted garage, there are a few considerations.  First of all, did you obtain the proper permits from the local municipality?  This will include submitting plans to the subcode official.  Before you can legally move forward with your project, you will need to get approval.

Additionally, zoning can become an issue.  If you are creating living space for a tenant, you may be in violation of local zoning laws.  Some areas are specifically zoned for only one family homes.

An experienced real estate attorney can work with you concerning the feasibility of your plans.  As an aside, it’s never a good idea to convert a garage into living space without following procedures.  You can find yourself in more trouble than you care to handle.

One more thing.   What if you’ve done everything right and legally rented out the apartment?   Could you run into special problems if you want to evict a tenant?   It depends.

The Anti-Eviction Act

When it comes to evicting a tenant from a converted garage, it may depend on the court’s interpretation of a building.   In fact, a few years ago, this was the subject of a long time court case.  We think you’ll find it of interest as it pertains to the Anti-Eviction Act.

Admittedly, some eviction cases take time.   However, forty years most certainly seems like an eternity.  Such is the case in the matter of  .   It involves a tenancy in nearby Hoboken.

In a prior article, we discussed some of the particulars of the Anti-Eviction Act.  Of import to this issue, is an owner’s right to evict as long as there are three or less residential units.  In cases of this nature, the landlord must occupy or intend to inhabit one of the apartments.

Let’s go back to the leading case on the issue.  Ms. Cashin owned two separate structure on one piece of land.   One was an apartment building with six separate apartments.  The other was actually a single family home.   The latter was built in a converted garage.

All things considered, there was no question that the owner could not evict a tenant from the six family apartment building just because she wanted to live there.  Notwithstanding, Ms. Cashin wanted to move her daughter into the single family home that had once been a garage.

Removal Attempts

When the house was initially converted from a garage, the plaintiff and her husband lived there for four years.   Ultimately, they decided to rent it out.  In 1973, Ms. Bella assumed the tenancy of the converted garage.

The saga of removal proceedings started back in 1980s.  According to the statement of facts, the plaintiff wanted to move out so her daughter could move in.  The defendant declined to leave and there is no indication if the matter was pursued in court.

Notwithstanding, the eviction was further pursued in 2009.  This time, Ms. Cashin wanted her son to move into the apartment so that he could be in closer proximity to his dying father.  Once again, Ms. Bella refused to leave the one family home.

It all came to a head in 2012.   Once again, Ms. Cashin started proceedings to remove Ms. Bella from the house.  However, this time, her demand cited NJSA 2A:18-61.1(l)(3).  The plaintiff’s contention was that since the converted garage was a one family house, she had the right to evict the tenant if she or a family member planned to occupy it.

In defense of refusing to leave the premises, Ms. Bella’s attorney argued that the property included the six family apartment building.   Ultimately, the Supreme Court found that the converted garage was actually a separate unattached structure.  Thus, it constituted a building on its own.

It took forty years to remove the tenant.  The Supreme Court agreed that the converted building constituted a single family home.  Since the statute allowed for an owner to evict someone on that basis, the eviction was considered proper.

Contact Us

Have questions about converting a garage or evicting a tenant?  Contact the Law Offices of Lawrence M. Centanni to see how we can assist you.

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