Bad Apples Dealing with Criminal Activity in Condos and Co-ops

On most occasions, HOAs and condo communities in New Jersey are not—as some would say—party central. Indeed, the wild, frenetic energy found in East Coast urban centers like Philadelphia and New York City is lacking. The generally quiet lifestyle—and one without too many unwelcome surprises—is exactly what attracts many homeowners to their associations in the first place.

That said…not every unit owner is a saint. Some communities, certainly, have to confront illegal activity. While most boards and unit owners should be familiar with the consequences and handlings of more pedestrian rule-breaking (i.e., not picking up after dog, not dumping garbage correctly), more serious criminal matters might leave community members unsure of proper reaction standards.

“Generally, associations don't get involved with what people do behind closed doors in their home…so the problem is, when it impacts their neighbor. Once the neighbors get involved, the association has to step in and say, ‘you have to stop this nuisance,’” says Fran McGovern, a principal at McGovern Legal Services in North Brunswick.

Behind Closed Doors

The most common vices can (and do) occur, from time to time, in even the most pristine communities, from drugs-related matters to prostitution and everything in between. For example, in November 2013, professional poker player Vadim Trincher pleaded guilty to running an illegal sports-betting operation out of his 63rd floor Trump Tower condo in Manhattan. This wasn’t a penny-ante operation, either. The New York Postreported that Trincher’s business catered to gamblers in Russia, the Ukraine, and America…all part of a $100 million gambling ring.

Not all residents are involved in such large, news-worthy scandal; some might not realize what they are doing is illegal, even. For instance, Mrs. Jones—a professional hairdresser—might be cutting hair out of her unit to make extra money. Although innocent enough (she is a nice, hard-working neighbor who has hit on hard times), her unit isn’t zoned for business, and customers are coming in and out of her unit at all hours of the day and night, disturbing other tenants. The same situation applies to Mr. Smith—a personal trainer—who has customers coming to his unit day and night for workout sessions.

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