Are Homeowners Associations Accountable Enough to You?
More than 1 million New Jersey residents live in communities with homeowners associations. The top Republican in the state Senate said people pay hard-earned money in dues to these associations, and they deserve some transparency.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean (R-Westfield) said he is pushing to expand and update the "Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act," which hasn’t been changed since 1993.
"This legislation focuses on accountability as well as transparency," Kean said. "It’s time to update a 22-year-old law."
Kean has introduced the "Association Homeowners’ Protection Act of 2015" (S3235). The measure would require:
- Homeowners associations to provide a copy of homeowners’ association insurance policies, which are needed to start personal home insurance claims processes. The association member would have to request the copy and it would have to be sent via email within 24 hours, or hard copy within 48 hours.
- Homeowners associations to offer a 24-hour emergency phone number for members.
- Homeowners associations to provide information including contact numbers for board members, as well as the most recent budget and all insurance information.
"That should be a transparent flow of information, so people have access to how their money is being spent," Kean said. "The over 1 million New Jersey residents who are part of these associations pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars every year to be part of these associations. It’s simple common sense that they should have access to timely information."
There was no response to emails and phone calls put out by New Jersey 101.5 to six homeowners associations in various parts of the state. A phone message was also left with the New Jersey chapter of the Community Associations Institute, and an email was sent to the group’s executive director.
In June, South Jersey was battered by a macroburst storm with high winds that caused more than $15 million in damages and led to thousands of insurance claims being filed. Gov. Chris Christie requested a disaster declaration from the president, which was approved, but Kean said homeowners associations did not offer enough help to residents trying to process their claims. In fact, they often made it more difficult.
The Association Regulation Unit in the Department of Community Affairs enforces the New Jersey Condominium Act and the Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act, but doesn’t have the authority to take actions such as investigating alleged wrongdoings of board members or employees, removing board members from office, or ordering board members or employees to comply with governing documents.
The unit offers information to owners of planned real estate, including condominiums, cooperatives, single-family homes or townhouses with owner-controlled associations, about their rights concerning access to financial records, public meetings and alternate dispute resolution.