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Archive for the ‘New Jersey Law’ Category

Scales and Lamp USSC

One New Jersey Supreme Court case, Cashin v. Bello, focused on a real estate matter this week. It was an unusually interesting case. The Star-Ledger explains:

The legal issue involves the grounds upon which a landlord can evict a tenant in order to occupy a home. Under New Jersey law, a landlord may evict a tenant from a building with three units or less if he or she intends to occupy the unit.

However, Cashin was prevented from evicting Bello for many years because she also owns an adjacent apartment building at 627 Washington Street with five rental units and both the apartment and the converted garage are listed in tax records as being part of the same property.

Bello has been living in the carriage house since 1973, and is paying just $345 per month under the Hoboken rent control law. Cashin — whose name seems apt in this case — has been trying to evict Bello since the 1980s. Now she can. The Supreme Court held that the lower courts had erred by treating the entire land parcel as a single building, containing more than three units, rather than treating the carriage house, alone, as a single, one-unit building. The temporary New Jersey Courts link is alive for now, but the original opinion will be archived next week at the Rutgers Law Library in Newark.

For your curiosity’s sake, here’s a look at the house:

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New Jersey now has the highest percentage of mortgaged homes in foreclosure, out of all the states. NJ Spotlight has all of the dismal details. Here in West Orange, there are still quite a few large properties — some with incredible architectural details, or panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline — that remain entirely abandoned, six years after 2008.

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New Jersey Legal Links

Scales and Lamp USSCI created a new list (below, right column) of New Jersey legal research resources. These may be helpful for pro se projects, and also just for anyone who likes having access to the whole body of state law from one simple list. People seem happily surprised to learn that the Rutgers Law Library has a free statutes annotated resource, which allows you to discover court decisions that have cited and/or interpreted a particular section of law. The MOD-IV is also an indispensable resource for anyone challenging a property tax assessment, or engaging in real estate sales research.

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I’m looking to take on some new clients in estate planning. The work offers a great opportunity to help clients while also avoiding some of the bad karma of adversarial work. Its legal issues also overlap with a lot of the property-based considerations in land use. If you know anyone in New Jersey who needs to update his or her estate planning documents — powers of attorney, wills, living wills, or trust documents — please send them along!

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New Jersey Land Use Update

Scales and Lamp USSC

There were no reported land use or zoning decisions out of the New Jersey appeals courts in the last two weeks. One unpublished case, Buckley v. Godlewski, focused on a challenge to the Stone Harbor ZBA’s decision to grant a second variance for a single property, without considering whether there had been sufficient changes in circumstance since the first variance had been granted for the latter application to survive a res judicata challenge. In a per curiam opinion, the two-judge panel wrote:

The [ZBA] improperly considered defendants’ second variance application under the applicable statutory criteria before first determining whether defendants had demonstrated changed circumstances or other good cause warranting reconsideration of their first variance application. For that reason, we are constrained to reverse and remand to the Board for “a correct application of the relevant principles of land use law.” (Citation omitted.)

It seems like there has been a lull in land use and zoning decisions recently. As always, the temporary New Jersey Courts link is alive for now, but the original opinion will be archived next week at the Rutgers Law Library in Newark.

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shore1

The Bergen Record has a piece that describes the differing responses by New York and New Jersey to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In New York, the Cuomo administration is intent on pushing a buyout program in Long Island that would pay homeowners the pre-storm market values for their properties, and encourage the abandonment of flood-prone areas. In New Jersey, the Christie administration is providing $10,000 subsidies to those who will rebuild and return to the Shore. For what it’s worth, I think Cuomo’s approach is the more sober of the two. But the emotional appeal of Christie’s plan is undeniable, and possibly irresistible in the aftermath of such devastation.

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The New Jersey Senate is considering legislation that would amend the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL) to reflect the clarified blight prerequisite from the Gallenthin decision, and also to incorporate a response to the due process concerns that were raised in the DeRose case.

♦  S-2447 would rewrite the ambiguous language of 40A:12A-5(e) to clarify the blight requirement for takings.

The statute presently reads:

(e)    A growing lack or total lack of proper utilization of areas caused by the condition of the title, diverse ownership of the real property therein or other conditions, resulting in a stagnant or not fully productive condition of land potentially useful and valuable for contributing to and serving the public health, safety and welfare.

Post amendment, it would read:

(e)    A growing lack or total lack of proper utilization of areas caused by the condition of the title, diverse ownership of the real properties therein or other similar conditions which impede land assemblage or discourage the undertaking of improvements, resulting in a stagnant and unproductive condition of land potentially useful and valuable for contributing to and serving the public health, safety and welfare, which condition is presumed to be having a negative social or economic impact or otherwise being detrimental to the safety, health, morals, or welfare of the surrounding area or the community in general.

♦ The bill would create two distinct classes of redevelopment areas: condemnation and non-condemnation. Councils would be required to choose a class when directing their planning boards to investigate the potential for redevelopment among certain parcels, and future actions would be limited by their choices.

♦  The bill would strengthen the requirements for noticing property owners in potential redevelopment areas, particularly with regard to eminent domain in proposed condemnation redevelopment areas.

The bill is sponsored by two Democrats, Jeff Van Drew (Cape May) and Ron Rice (Essex). S-2447 cleared the Community and Urban Affairs committee with unanimous support (5-0) earlier this month. If you’re interested in how the states are tackling eminent domain issues in the post-Kelo landscape, then the markup is worth a look.

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