Generally speaking, the issue of municipal services—snow removal, paving, garbage collection, etc.—as they apply to HOAs is pretty cut-and-dry: municipalities receive money directly from owners in the form of property taxes. HOAs budget for snow/ice removal, and other similar services on an annual basis and then set the monthly fees or levy special assessments on owners accordingly. Occasionally however, questions do arise, and like any gray area where money and legal responsibility converge, debate can quickly devolve into argument.
One recent example of this is the case of Mendham Knolls Condominium Association in Mendham. Access to the condo grounds is achieved only via Boundary Oak Lane, a 156-foot-long road that empties into the condominium’s parking area. Conflict arose over who was responsible for either maintaining Boundary Oak Lane or paying to have it maintained—Mendham Knolls, or the Township of Mendham itself? That question eventually pitted the HOA against the town, and landed the issue in court.
According to David Byrne, an attorney with the Lawrenceville-based law firm of Stark & Stark, who represented the condo association in the case, the town of Mendham argued that it was not obligated to provide either services or reimbursements to the Mendham Knolls HOA because Boundary Oak Lane was really more of a driveway— and the town doesn’t service private drives.
On the other hand, the condominium argued that Boundary Oak Lane is a road, and thus eligible for services and/or reimbursements like any other road in the township’s jurisdiction. The legal situation quickly turned sticky.
Before getting into how the conflict in Mendham worked out, it’s instructive to delve a little further into the laws in question in the case.