It doesn’t seem to be a “chag sameach” (happy holiday) for Abraham Berman of Palo Alto, CA. The 81-year-old resident of Sheridan Apartments, an affordable housing complex, was told that he would not be permitted to put up his sukkah in the common area of the building, as he has done for the past decade. He also cannot put the sukkah on his private balcony because it is covered by an eave, and a sukkah is halachically invalid if covered by the roof of a building.(1) (Click here to read the story.)
While Mr. Berman’s problem is unfortunate, it is certainly not novel. Disputes regarding sukkahs have arisen in quite a few apartment buildings and common interest communities across the country. For instance, in 2003, The Alperowitz family of New Haven, CT sued their condo association for not allowing them to put up a sukkah on their balcony. That case resulted in a favorable settlement for the family, including a formal letter of apology from the association, compensation, and attorney’s fees. (Click here for the whole story.)
The difference between Mr. Berman’s situation and the Alperowitz case is that the former wanted to use the common area of the apartment complex, while the latter only wished to put the sukkah on their own balcony. There is a similar distinction in Jewish law regarding sukkahs in private and public areas. While a sukkah is technically valid if constructed in a public area, one is nevertheless not permitted to build it in such a place unless he has permission from all of the common owners of the land (e.g. in a common interest community) or the government (e.g. public land).(2)
(1) See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim § 626(3).
(2) Id. § 637(3).