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Laws vs. Rules You Need to Know the Difference

 We’re only human—no matter how harmonious and tight-knit a community may be, differences and  disputes are bound to happen from time to time. That’s why laws and rules are in place. But, the federalist system of government we  use in this country is far from the most efficient system. Layers and layers of  laws, statutes, and regulations fall on associations, and it's quite literally  impossible to keep up. First there’s the condominium declaration and bylaws. There are the house rules, which can  be separate from the bylaws. Then there are municipal codes and ordinances that  can impact anything from how many trees need to be on the association’s property to plumbing to civil rights issues. On top of that, there are state  laws and statutes drafted and passed by the New Jersey legislature, and almost  constant changes and amendments made; on top of that, there are federal laws  and regulations.  

 Associations and their counsel need to keep abreast of all of these, because  they all affect how the HOA can and should conduct its everyday operations and  relationships. What might seem fair on a federal level could be more  complicated on a state level, and if your documents are not up to date, what  might seem like a silly legal issue can easily spiral out of control. In order  to avoid trouble and keep the peace, association and building boards should at  least know the general lay of the land, and what kind of legal landmines are  out there.  

 The Condo Act

 Compared to other states, New Jersey has a pretty clear picture when it comes to  laws regarding condominiums, thanks to the New Jersey Condominium Act, also  known as the Condo Act.  

 At its core, the Condo Act provides a blueprint for associations, and  standardizes many important procedures. “It is rare but a few condominium associations have governing documents that  direct the board members to conduct alternate dispute resolution hearings in  contradiction of The New Jersey Condominium Act which states that a 'person  other than an officer of the association, a member of the governing board or a  unit owner involved in the dispute shall be made available to resolve the  dispute.' In these types of cases, the association should ignore the  inconsistent rule or restriction and comply with the law,” says Mary Barrett, a shareholder attorney with the law firm of Stark & Stark in Lawrenceville. If you're curious about whether state law trumps  associations declarations the simple answer is that it depends, and there's no  obvious way to tell unless you memorize the Condo Act.  

 Even though most of the Condo Act clarifies simple procedural processes for  boards and associations, it's still important to keep up to date. “The association’s legal counsel should advise the board of trustees of the new law and how it  impacts the association. The board should be advised that the new law will  likely trump any existing rule of the association that conflicts with it. Legal  counsel can help the board revise those rules to bring them into conformity  with any newly enacted laws. It is actually rare that a new law will have  substantial impact on an association’s governing documents. However, new case or a court’s interpretation of a long-standing statute frequently affects associations,” says Richard Linderman, a partner at the law firm of Herrick, Feinstein LLP in  Princeton.  

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Comments

  • please advise, maintenance company HOA has a contract with is not responding on our request for repairs,(roof leaks, gutters are falling off, deck is not constructed properly and water is not draining properly, build up of moss and algae, don't know what is developing behind siding, etc...), they just don't respond, I do pay all fees timely, please advise if court is only solution which court I should go to, thanks for your help, Osmo