Q&A: Fining for Pets and Other Violations

Q We send violation notices and the owners just throw it in the trash. We would prefer to threaten fines rather than engage in legal proceedings. Specifically, issues involve leasing units without board approval or notice, barbecue grills on patios, and animals in condo units. Our documents don't specifically define barbecue grills; however we feel it falls under nuisance (fire hazard). There is a no pet policy in our documents, and a purchase and/or leases must be approved by the board. I seem to think we can fine up to $100 per day not to exceed $1,000, but can't seem to find legislation to support that.

—Not Fine in Fair Lawn

A “First, the authority to cite unit owners for violations should be almost always vested with a covenants committee created by the association in its governing documents,” says Eric D. Brophy, Esq., a resident partner and an attorney at the law firm of Diegnan Brophy LLC in Wall Township, New Jersey. “This committee, usually established in larger associations, handles matters such as maintenance and ascetics and enforcement of the rules and regulations. If your association does not have such a committee the board should speak with the association’s attorney to appoint one.

“Further, it is always a good practice to define, as best as possible, what matters are considered violations. Any necessary definitions must be clearly spelled out in the rules and regulations. In your case, what constitutes a violation of “barbeque grills” should be clearly explained. Notwithstanding a lack of definition, the board is always entrusted with the enforcement of provisions that protect the “health, welfare and safety” of the unit owners and the association.

“Finally, the amount that you can charge in fines should always be spelled out in the governing documents. Including it in the governing documents not only satisfies certain notice requirements it will also act as a deterrent to those seeking to violate the rules. Specifically, N.J.S.A. 46:8B-15(f) provides for the imposition of fines for violations. The statute provides that ‘if authorized by the master deed and bylaws, the association may impose reasonable fines. . .' and 'a fine for a violation . . . shall not exceed the maximum monetary penalty . . . under section 19 of the ‘Hotel and Multiple Dwelling Law.'' That law provides specifically, 'any person who violates, or causes to be violated, any provision of subsection (a) of this section shall be liable to a penalty of not less than $50.00 nor more than $500.00 for each violation, and a penalty of not less than $500.00 nor more than $5,000.00 for each continuing violation.'”

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Comments

  • Hoboken condo owner on Friday, January 31, 2014 2:37 PM
    My new condo board is trying to increase fines for rules they made up recently. I was told by another President of Condo Assoc that their lawyer told them it's against the law to fine someone money for a rule made up by the condo board. It seems in your above answer that they can??? I'm unclear what the NJ Law states on Condo buildings in Hoboken fining owners money based on rules that the board made up??? Some of theses new rules are.. No more than 6 people in the common yard per unit at a time?? Putting recyclable in the right bin??? Noise ? Not allowing dogs in common yard??? They are charging $50 first offense then goes up $50 each offense and they state even if it is not a consecutive offense it goes up to $100. then $150. Is this allowed??? Help