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Fee v. College Towers Apartments, Section One

A-0352-06T1 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

COOPERATIVES; EVICTION — Shareholders in apartments owned by state subsidized cooperative housing corporations are expected to occupy those apartments and not simply maintain them for investment reasons; failure to do so constitutes grounds for eviction.

A couple became shareholders in a state subsidized cooperative housing corporation restricted to low and moderate income families. They moved into one of the cooperative’s apartments. Their son resided with them until he married and moved out. After the son’s father passed away almost twenty years later, the son moved back into the apartment to take care of his mother until she passed away. As his mother’s beneficiary, he became a shareholder with the right to occupy the apartment. Twelve years later, the son, who had since married and become a stepfather to a young girl, purchased residential property which became his family’s primary residence. The couple enrolled their daughter at a school near that residential area. The cooperative gave notice that the son and family had to cure their residency violation or their rights under the cooperative would terminate. The son and his family filed a complaint seeking to prevent the cooperative from terminating their occupancy agreement.

Following a trial, the lower court found the tenants were in default of their occupancy agreement for failing to occupy their apartment. The lower court held that the cooperative’s purpose was to provide affordable apartments for families in need of housing. As such, if the son and his family were living elsewhere, they would not need that housing. The Court found that the apartments were not meant to be convenient second homes or hotel rooms and could not be maintained simply for investment reasons. It held that to permit the son and his family to continue to possess the apartment without occupying it would contradict the cooperative’s purpose as a subsidized housing corporation.

On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s findings, holding them to be amply supported by substantial credible evidence, further holding that the lower court had correctly applied applicable legal principles.

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