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Sabatini v. Sabatini

A-2873-06T3 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2008) (Unpublished)

TENANCIES-IN-COMMON — Under equitable principles, a tenant-in-common must offset the value of contributions it made toward the operation and maintenance expenses of the property against the value of his or her use and occupancy of the premises.

Parents and their son held a home as tenants-in-common. The parents sued their son for partition. He had lived in the home for more than nine years. During that period, he incurred expenditures for repairs, improvements, and taxes, but made no payments to his parents for his occupancy of the premises. At one time, he paid for repairs for improvements to make the house into a show house for a charitable fundraiser.

The lower court granted partition of the property, finding that the son’s use of the premises had a fair rental value greater than what he had spent for repairs and carrying costs. Therefore, he received no award reimbursement from his parents for those charges. Further, he was denied reimbursement for the improvements, because the lower court found no evidence to demonstrate that the improvements increased the value of the premises.

On appeal, the son alleged that he should have been credited for the portion of his payments used for the improvements and repairs attributable to the show house because they were done at his mother’s request and direction. The Appellate Division found that the son was not entitled to reimbursement based on the factual record as there was no evidence to support an agency or contract theory of recovery. Furthermore, the Court held that under an equitable theory, a tenant in common must offset any value of contributions toward the operation and maintenance expenses from the other co-tenant by the value of his use and occupancy of the premises. In this instance, the value of the son’s use and occupancy of the home exceeded his expenditures. Additionally, the Court agreed with the lower court that the cost of improvements to make the home into a show house did not increase the value of the property.

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