Q&A: Giving Power to Dear Old Dad?

Q We have a small condominium complex of 25 townhouses. One home is owned by the son of the resident. The son does not live in the home. He has given his father a note allowing him to act on his behalf, as owner of the property. Does this allow the father to serve on committees? Be elected to office? Surely, he does not have the financial concerns or common interests of an actual invested homeowner.

--Interested Stakeholder

A The rights of a non-owner resident,” says Katharine A. Muscalino, an associate at the law firm of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman P.C., in Morristown, “are governed by the association’s master deed and bylaws. Some master deeds and bylaws provide that, where a unit owner does not occupy his unit, the occupant (whether by lease or some other agreement), can enjoy associate membership status. Non-owner occupants derive the right to use the common facilities from their lease or other agreement with the unit owner. In addition to these rights, associate members are often permitted to participate in association services and activities, including membership on committees. They are not typically entitled to vote, serve as board members, or inspect the association’s books and records. Associate memberships can be advantageous to the community, as they encourage non-owner resident investment in the condition of the common facilities and participation in the association’s activities.

“In the scenario described in the question, if the association’s master deed and bylaws permit associate memberships, the father can be designated an associate member of the association. As an associate member, the father typically would be eligible to participate in all of the association’s activities, including serving on committees. However, the father would not be permitted to vote unless given a proxy by the son. Even with a proxy from the son, the father would be barred from being elected to the board because the father is not a voting member of the association.

“If the association’s master deed and/or bylaws do not provide for associate memberships, the rights of a non-owner resident are subject to the relevant provisions of the association’s master deed and bylaws, if any, and the New Jersey Condominium Act (“Condominium Act”). The Condominium Act only contemplates voting and service on the board by unit owners. The Condominium Act does not discuss committee membership. Thus, if the association’s master deed and bylaws do not specifically provide for associate memberships, the father’s rights are limited to the specific provisions of the master deed and bylaws. In the absence of any provisions addressing the rights of non-owner residents, the father may not vote or serve on the association’s board or committees.”

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