New Jersey Court Rejects Zoning Board’s Issuance of a Variance That Discriminates Against Tenants
The Appellate Division has once again confirmed that “distinctions between renters or property owners in the application of zoning and land use laws have no place in the application of legitimate objectives of zoning.”
In Tirpak v. Bor. of Point Pleasant Beach, A-5088-17T1/A-5147-17T1, decided Feb. 11, 2019, the property owner sought to remove a deed restriction imposed as a condition in connection with an earlier use variance. The restriction allowed for the use of the property as a two-family residence only if one of the units was owner-occupied. The trial court vacated the condition after finding it legally impermissible and the municipality subsequently challenged that determination.
On appeal, the court confirmed that it was improper for the zoning board to condition its grant of a use variance on whether the residence was occupied by an owner or tenants. In so doing, the court recognized the well-established principle that while zoning may be utilized to regulate the usage of property it cannot be applied to control the identity or status of the persons occupying the land. See DeFelice v. Point Pleasant Beach Bd. Of Adj., 216 N.J. Super. 377 (App. Div 1987) and United Property Owners Ass’n of Belmar v. Borough of Belmar, 185 N.J. Super. 163, 165 (App Div. 1982)). While the Zoning Board argued that the condition furthered the legitimate objectives of controlling noise and nuisance conditions, the court held that such objectives must be achieved through the police powers of the municipality, not its zoning laws.
In sum, a municipality may not employ its zoning laws in a manner that favors property owners and discriminates against tenants.
As the law continues to evolve on these matters, please note that this article is current as of date and time of publication and may not reflect subsequent developments. The content and interpretation of the issues addressed herein is subject to change. Cole Schotz P.C. disclaims any and all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the contents of this publication to the fullest extent permitted by law. This is for general informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or refrain from acting upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining legal, financial and tax advice. For further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your firm contact or to any of the attorneys listed in this publication.
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