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What makes a "Finished Basement" different from an ILLEGAL Apartment"???

Hackensack, NJ |

I have a walkout basement (75%+above ground).When I bought the home 4yrs ago, it already had a full bathroom, a wet bar w/sink &refrigerator,& a gas line for a stove which needed to be replaced (and I did). The space is around 1000 sqFt and has an outside entrance from the yard.FYI- this is also the ONLY access to the yard from the house! The rest of the house has 5more bedrooms& 3.5 baths(4.5total).
I live alone in the top two floors, now that my roomate got engaged, & asked if he and his fiancee could take the lower level, with the "summer kitchen" in the interest of privacy. ... HOW did I go from having a roomie and a finished basement to having a home with an "ILLEGAL APARTMENT"?? Do I let the housing authorityin to "check for an illegal apt " THIS FRIDAY 5/15/09? PLZ HELP!

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Attorney answers 1


Local towns have ordinances about the number of people living in a home as related to square feet.
These rules came about when there were people setting up residential apartments, charging rent, not registering as landlords and having multiple families living in crowded, unhealthy conditions. It is NOT an invasion of privacy to inspect a home when there has been such a complaint filed. An apartment is a division of a home where someone other than a close relative and/or friend lives an pays rent. Such apartments must be registered and are subject to certain regulations as to size and facilities,You also must admit that there is a huge difference between having someone staying in your home as a roommate and having an unrelated couple living in a division of your home.. I do not know if there is a basis for the city complaint. In NJ it is legal for unrelated people to live together.
Refusing to grant access to your home to an inspector is the legal equivalent of admitting you have an illegal apartment. The fines for not registering as a landlord, and not having sufficient space for the couple are stiff.
You may need a lawyer to defend you in court. if the housing inspector files a complaint.

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(Even if you are not filing a lawsuit this information can be useful).

You might find my legal guide on landlord/tenant regulations in general and in NJ helpful.
You might find my legalLocal towns have ordinances about the number of people living in a home as related to square feet.

Mr. Sarno is licensed to practice law in NJ and NY. His response here is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter in question. Many times the questioner may leave out details which would make the reply unsuitable. Mr. Sarno strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their own state to acquire more information.