Skip to main content

Multi-Family house inspectors are stating illegal attic and illegal cellar (basement) is that even possible?

Paterson, NJ |

This is a family house we are all related. Inspectors think that my grandparents are renting the room in the attic and in the basement which is not the case at all. If we show our birth cert. in court to prove that she isn't renting out the rooms to random people is there a chance we may win? I have a strong feeling the state isn't doing so well financially that they are just fining innoncent people for no reason which is unfair. What can we do about this

+ Read More

Attorney answers 3


You should consult with an attorney who handles municipal court matters.

First check to see how the house is zoned with the tax assessor. Then, you check the local zoning ordinances in Paterson to see if there are restrictions as to the number of people that can reside in the house of the size of yours.

With regard to illegal apartments - basement and attic - Paterson has many illegally occupied homes, which presents fire and safety hazards. The fines are rather large. In addition, if there is an illegal tenancy, the landlord is liable in damages to the tenant , as well.

You absolutely should be prepared to show a Court that all family members are related to the owner of the home. Not only, should they all be available to testify, you should bring with you to court proof in the form of birth certificates and marriage certificates of the family connection.

Good luck.

Wayne Plaza II
155 Route 46 West
Wayne, NJ 07470
Phone No. (973) 256-0456
Fax No. (973) 256-4784

This message does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only. This message does not establish an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established once a retainer agreement has been fully executed between you and this firm. For legal advice, please contact and retain an attorney of your own choosing.


It's certainly possible.

Due to the way that the local ordinances in Paterson are worded, it really doesn't matter if people are related or not (or if they are paying rent or not). There is a State law that prohibits illegal boarding houses, which only kicks in if the person is unrelated and paying rent. But in Paterson those things do not matter. The city inspectors may inspect a house and conclude that using certain rooms as bedrooms do not conform with the local zoning rules. They will look for beds, furniture, bathrooms, etc. to see if people are living in those rooms.

The fine is at least $1,000 for violating the ordinance, but you could get hit for more (and even jail time) if you keep violating the ordinance over and over again. I have told clients in the past that they would probably be better off hiring a contractor to make the rooms legal and conform to zoning rather than keep paying fines.

This is just some general legal information, not actual advice about your case in particular. If you would like actual advice, please contact me for a 100% free consultation. I represent clients in these matters for a reasonable flat fee.

Best of luck.

Dan Levy


According to most building codes, for a room to be a "bedroom," there needs to be a fire or emergency exit, built according to code. If the basement and attic rooms do not have emergency exits, they can be considered "illegal," and no one is supposed to sleep in them. It may or may not help that all persons living in the home are related, but it is also a health and safety issue.

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer