Denying Access Consequences for Arrears and Non-Payment

The synopsis for the 2013 horror film The Purge is pretty extreme: in the future, society implements a 12-hour period called “the purge,” wherein any and all crime is legalized. Always wanted to vandalize your boss’s car? Thinking about shoplifting a Snickers bar? Now is the time to act on those, and other, far more nasty antisocial urges. Needless to say, it does not go well and the film (which had a sequel in 2014 and has a third installment coming in 2016) sends the message that no crime can be committed without consequence. 

We all likely think of ourselves as rule-following, law abiding citizens, but sometimes the lines blur a little in the places we are most comfortable—specifically our home. We might not imagine it's that big of a deal to give our significant other the building entrance code, even though the condo board has a rule against giving it to non-residents (after all, you've been dating for six months, and it's a hassle to keep buzzing them in when they come over...). And it certainly can't be that much of a problem if we send in our monthly condo fees a week or so late (you're just one of many owners—and besides, you’ve lived there for years, you’re good for it eventually!).

Actually, bending and breaking the rules of one's co-op or condo is a big deal, and a big problem. From potential property damage to distrust between residents, ignoring the rules of the building—written or otherwise—has real consequences for everybody. There are a number of enforcement tools boards and managers can use to get residents back on the straight and narrow, legitimately and without causing The-Purge-like-anarchy—and privileges and facilities access are a major one.

Of Statutes and States 

Eric M. Goidel, Esq. of the Manhattan-based law firm  of Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Goidel, PC, provides some necessary context to the subject. “The concept of the withdrawal of privileges for defaulting residents has existed for many years,” he says. “Typically, it involved the revocation of parking privileges or the loss of storage area use. Boards have—both legally and illegally—chosen to utilize the withdrawal of amenities as a weapon against violating residents.”

That said, Goidel cautions that any time you start throwing around the words legally and illegally, you inevitably encounter nuances and contrasts between what co-op and condominium communities across the country can and cannot do to put teeth in their rule enforcement practices. In the state of New York for example, “Courts have given the boards of cooperatives a fair degree of latitude in adopting policies which are in the interest of a cooperative corporation,” explains Goidel. “In opposite, condominium boards are generally bound by their bylaws…accordingly, an amenity is typically extraneous to the proprietary lease which gives a board of directors’ broad discretion in withdrawing that amenity.” 

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2 Comments

  • What would you suggest if it's the Board of Directors President that is and has been in violation of the Master Deed for years but never gets a letter of violation nor fined. Yet, she imposes fines to others (me) for "violating' similar policies. Then who can you complain to? The Board President is in violation of 2 Pet Policy rules, has more than 1 pet per unit and has rabbits, which are NOT listed as acceptable animals in the Master Deed and Rules and Regulations.. When I ask her why she's not fined for her violations she says she's too busy to discuss it and walks away. I have a service dog that I work with on and off-leash on public easement property. According to the ADA the Board has no authority to deny access to me and my service dog based on the association's Pet Policy... but that doesn't stop them from assessing fines, a total of $850. Under the law service animals are not pets. The Board and Management don't seem to care about federal laws against discrimination. I tried a private attorney, he just ripped me off for $3K and did nothing. Isn't there some government entity that makes sure Board members have to follow the same rules as everyone else? Please help.
  • What would you suggest about a Board of Directors that withholds membership from 99% of the community, holds nominations in private, refuses to disclose financial records, spends our money on lobbying to defeat any legislation that would require all of the above --- and stands behind a NJ court decision that says sorry, the law doesn't explicitly require basic democratic principles in NJ homeowners associations? We face all of this in Radburn, Fair Lawn, NJ, due to a poorly focused decision in "Moore vs Radburn," which failed to find in the NJ Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act (PREDFDA) that the word "member" should by synonymous with "unit owner." The State authority governing homeowners issues is the NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) which has very detailed complaint forms for just these sorts of disputes, however, they have no written authority in the law to actually settle these problems and can only point you to dispute resolution -- mediation and/or arbitration depending on YOUR association rules. But today, Assemblyman Jerry Green and Senator Ronald Rice have sponsored identical bills, A2027 and S1586, which would require full membership, financial disclosure and open nominations regardless of the structure of the association. Please contact these representatives and tell them that NJ homeowners need basic democratic protections for their largest personal investment -- their own homes. contact: Asm. Jerry Green, Housing Committee Chairman, AsmGreen@njleg.org Sen. Jeff Van Drew, Community Affairs Committee Chairman, SenVanDrew@njleg.org Sen. Ronald Rice, Community Affairs Committee, SenRice@njleg.org and your local Assembly and Senate representatives at http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp