Like snowflakes, no two homeowner associations are exactly alike. New Jersey's laws governing HOAs allow for a good deal of leeway in how a condo, co-op or town home community decides to run things. One of these areas is in the care and upkeep of outdoor areas.
Obviously a large part of New Jersey's landscape consists of spacious suburban communities, which generally allow for a wider array of property configurations than might be practical in an urban setting, where multifamily housing primarily consists of vertical apartment buildings with little or no space in between. With different types of communities existing close to each other, it's beneficial for all parties involved when unit owners and community management know exactly what they are responsible for.
Something in Common
In just about every homeowner association, there are common elements for which the association is virtually always responsible. Many times, the definition of a common element is clear: swimming pools, roadways, parking lots, tennis courts—there isn't an association anywhere that would require an individual homeowner to be responsible for the upkeep of a tennis court.
But there are several factors that can create circumstances where who is responsible for what can vary from property to property—one of which is limited common elements.
"You may get into what are called limited common elements," says Kenneth Lipstein, an attorney in Westfield, " which are often stairways, walkways and hallways that are accessible only to some owners. There might be a stairway that only services a couple of units—those are generally subject to the care and responsibility of the association."