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Pending N.J. Bill Could Affect Brick Homeowner Associations’ Governance

Winding River Village, Brick, NJ (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Winding River Village, Brick, NJ (Photo: Daniel Nee)

Local officials have pledged to fight a bill pending in the New Jersey legislature that would lead to a state agency becoming more involved with the governance of homeowners association. If enacted, the effort would affect complexes ranging from senior citizen communities to large-scale condominium developments such as Maple Leaf Park.

The so-called Common Interest Community bill has passed the state General Assembly and is now pending in the Senate. The bill would rework the way homeowners associations are governed in New Jersey, and give the state Department of Community Affairs a significant role in regulating them. Proponents say the bill would provide homeowners more recourse in corralling association boards and allow for easier recalls, but those who oppose the measure argue the state would inject itself into local communities and could even impose fees to support a sizable bureaucracy.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Gerald Green (D-Union) and Celeste Riley (D-Cumberland) would define homeowners’ rights over common property in a community, establish statewide standards for board elections and access to records, plus provide a uniform recall process. But state Sen. Christopher Connors (R-Ocean) said he opposes the bill for the role it would grant the DCA in overseeing the associations.

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“This single provision is very alarming in that it would most certainly lead to the state interfering in the operations of homeowners associations,” Connors said. “How would the state know how better to run a community then its residents?”

The bill would provide the DCA – the same agency which faced criticism for its management of post-Sandy recovery grant programs – with “any rules and regulations that may be necessary to effectuate” the legislation.

A key difference in the current bill pending in the Senate is that it would not impose a fee on homeowners to support the DCA’s management of local associations, though Connors said it would be inevitable given the task at hand.

“Many argue that the department is already understaffed and, as such, cannot fully carry out its existing responsibilities,” said Connors, adding that it would be “only a matter of time” before residents would face fees.

The bill passed the Assembly June 25 and is now before the Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee, on which Connors serves. In past legislative sessions, Connors has used his committee assignment to stop the advancement of previous versions of common interest community legislation, and has pledged to do the same this time around.

“Some relief may be provided to residents governed by ineffective boards, but enactment of this legislation is likely to be a case where the cure ends up being worse than the disease,” Connors said.