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Q&A: Voting Rights and Ownership of the Land

Q. Our association is comprised mostly of people who own both their building and the land under their building. We have a small group of people who only own their building and pay a user fee to a sponsor for the land under their building. Does the Radburn Law entitle the owners who do not own the land under their building the same nominating/voting rights as those owners who own both their land and their building?

           —Building Owner Seeking Clarity

A. “Although the question does not indicate what type of association you live in (condo, co-op, or homeowners association),” says attorney J. David Ramsey of the Morristown law office of Becker, “I’m going to surmise from your question that it is a mixed-use community, since some of the homes or units appear to include a certain plot of land, while others own a unit but no land. Those owners are almost certainly either condominium unit owners or have units that are subject to a long-term lease arrangement. Further, it is a little confusing that you reference the owners paying a ‘user fee’ to a sponsor for the land under the building. That sounds as if it is, in fact, a leasehold interest. However, you don’t state whether, in addition to paying the sponsor a user fee, they also pay the association an assessment; but for purposes of responding, I will assume that that they do.

“It would appear that the community you reside in is a ‘planned real estate development.’ Under New Jersey’s Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act—which the 2017 statutory election provisions commonly known as the ‘Radburn Election Law’ were incorporated into—a ‘planned real estate development’ is ‘any real property situated within the State, whether contiguous or not, which consists of or will consist of, separately owned areas, irrespective of form, be it lots, parcels, units, or interest, and which are offered or disposed of pursuant to a common promotional plan, and providing for common or shared elements or interests in real property.’ All planned real estate developments except for certain ‘voluntary associations’ (referring to some older lake communities) are included under the Radburn Election Law. Since your description appears to conform to this definition, all owners having an interest in a lot or unit in your community are, under the Radburn Election Law, considered members of the association, and all members would have the same nominating and voting rights as all other members.”

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