In New Jersey, certain planned communities may be governed by a homeowners association (“HOA”). These communities usually consist of individual residential houses, townhouses, or condominiums. Their powers and responsibilities vary based on the property type and governing documents.
Who Regulates HOAs in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, there is no specific statute that generally governs HOAs. However, HOAs in New Jersey are subject to the rules set forth in the New Jersey’s Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act (“PRDEFDA”), N.J.S.A. § 45:22A-1, et. seq.
An HOA is also regulated by its own governing documents. Although every HOA is different, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restriction, and other rules and regulations.
HOAs in New Jersey may also be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
HOAs may also be subject to certain state laws such as:
How to Find HOA Rules/Laws in New Jersey
HOA governing documents are public record in New Jersey. An HOA must record its governing documents with the county land records to be enforceable. To obtain these documents visit the local county clerk’s office.
In some instances, you can obtain these records online by using the New Jersey Business Name Search on the New Jersey Department of the Treasury website. On this site, homeowners may be able to access limited information about the HOA.
HOA Powers in New Jersey
In New Jersey, an HOA has the power to:
- Collect assessments for common expenses;
- Regulate common areas;
- Collect charges to maintain and operate the common areas;
- Collect charges for late payments of assessments;
- Levy reasonable fines; and
- Foreclose on your house for unpaid liens.
Additionally, HOA governing documents can grant further powers such as restrictions on home ownership, exterior paint colors, fencing and parking requirements.
Can an HOA Fine You in New Jersey? If So, by How Much?
In New Jersey, an HOA may impose fines on a homeowner for violating its rules. Although there are no laws regulating these fees, generally fees can range from as little as $20 to over $500 depending on the severity and length of the violation.
The HOA’s governing documents will likely note the amount and types of fees in your HOA as well as notice requirements for such fees.
An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit):
- Displaying the American Flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law;
- Installing a flagpole to display the American flag; or
- Installing solar energy panels;
An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable rules and regulations regarding the placement and manner of display of the American Flag and solar panels.
Can an HOA Take Your House in New Jersey?
An HOA can foreclose on your house in New Jersey for unpaid liens by following the same legal process that a mortgage lender would to foreclose on a house.
However, an HOA cannot foreclose without first mailing a notice of intention to foreclose to the homeowner and giving the homeowner at least 30 days to pay the outstanding debts.
An HOA cannot evict a homeowner or a tenant of a homeowner unless expressly authorized in the governing documents. The HOA also does not have the power to force a homeowner to evict their tenant. However, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions about rental properties in its governing documents.
Can an HOA Enter Your Property in New Jersey?
In New Jersey there is no provision in the law that allows an HOA to enter your property. However, most governing documents contain a provision allowing an HOA to enter your home as reasonably necessary to maintain common elements or shared utilities.
Common elements are the shared spaces in and around your house that are collectively owned by the HOA, such as a pool. Shared utilities may include water or sewage that are provided directly through the HOA.
Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must generally give prior notice before entering your property. Typically, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but notice requirements are determined by the governing documents.
Where Do I File a Complaint Against my HOA in New Jersey?
The venue for filing a Complaint against an HOA in New Jersey depends on the complaint.
For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state or federal court within one year of the violation date. A homeowner may also file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
If a homeowner feels they are a victim of housing discrimination they can file a complaint with the The New Jersey Division on Civil Rights the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or file a private lawsuit in New Jersey state or federal court.
For complaints under PRDEFDA, homeowners must file a complaint using an alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) forum. ADR procedures can be either mediation (a guided attempt to work the matter out) or arbitration (a more formal proceeding ending with a decision). The specific forum and procedures must be designated in the governing documents.
For any other complaints, a homeowner can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.
Joining & Leaving an HOA in New Jersey
In New Jersey, if you purchase a home in a neighborhood with a preexisting HOA, you are required to join and abide by the HOA rules. You should be presented with documents explaining the HOA and its rules at the closing for your home purchase.
If you bought a house in a neighborhood with an HOA you cannot simply leave or opt-out of the HOA. To leave an HOA you can sell your house or you can try to petition the HOA to have your home removed, but there is no guaranteed right that the petition will be granted.
How to Dissolve an HOA in New Jersey
The process for dissolution of an HOA in New Jersey may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If it is not, the board members of the HOA must propose dissolution to the members of the HOA.
After a proposal, appropriate notice must be provided to the members of the HOA. Unless otherwise specified by the governing documents, dissolution is approved by more than two-thirds of all the votes cast on the proposal to dissolve.
If approved, the agreeing members will sign a termination agreement, settle any debts, dispose of assets belonging to the HOA, and file Articles of Dissolution with the New Jersey Department of Treasury to complete the dissolution.