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Sabbagh v. Hampton Condominium Association, Inc.

C-259-10 (N.J. Super. Ch. Div. 2011) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; TENANTS — A condominium association cannot assume that someone occupying an owner’s unit is a tenant because the mere fact that someone is occupying with the acquiescence of its owner does not by law or implication create a tenancy.

When a condominium association’s board learned that a unit owner was allowing someone whom the board assumed was a tenant to reside in his unit in contravention of the governing documents, the board imposed a fine and recorded a lien against the property. The master deed and the by-laws of the association provided that “no portion of an apartment unit may be rented, and no transient tenants can be accommodated therein.” The unit owner disputed the board’s actions, denying that the unit’s occupant was a tenant, and initiated an action to compel rescission of the fine and discharge of the lien.

After a bench trial, the Court determined found the occupant to be no more than a “guest.” Influences in favor of the Court’s determination were the absence of a written lease and the fact that the occupant was an employee of the unit owner who was only permitted to stay in the unit for a short period of time to effectuate certain repairs. The Court held that the mere fact that a unit is occupied with the acquiescence of its owner does not by law or by implication create a tenancy. The proofs did not show any kind of right or title in the occupant. The Court found a tenancy had not been established, and held that a tenancy could not be assumed. It also noted that if the association wanted to prohibit this type of occupancy, it had to do so by specifically amending its governing documents. Accordingly, the Court found no tenancy and overturned the board’s imposition of the fine. It also denied the association’s ancillary claim for significant counsel fees from the unit owner.


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