NJ Aims to Boost Democracy in Homeowners Associations
State lawmakers have given unanimous approval to a bill giving more rights to residents of common interest communities, such as homeowners associations.
One of every seven New Jersey residents, more than 1.3 million people, live in 6,700 communities overseen by homeowners associations. A bill seeking to give them more of a voice in how those associations are managed was approved 74-0 by the Assembly Monday.
Assemblyman Tim Eustace, D-Bergen, said there have been complaints by residents of being ignored since such associations came into being.
“It’s more of an expansion of people’s rights. It’s really allowing people to have normal votes in normal communities. They’re homeowners. They should be able to vote for who represents them and how they want their communities to be run,” Eustace said.
The bill was inspired by a 2006 lawsuit brought by residents against Radburn, a planned community in Fair Lawn dating to 1929. The courts upheld Radburn’s governance system, in which the sitting trustees choose two-thirds of board members.
The bill would allow more than one tenant in a unit to have voting rights, ensure sufficient notice in advance of executive board elections and lay out guidelines for fair elections with more participation by residents.
Assemblyman Nicholas Chiaravalloti, D-Hudson, said a gap in current New Jersey law governing homeowner associations denies residents their rights if the project wasn’t completed.
“This bill will change the makeup of the board and allow the tenants to participate in the decision making process earlier, which is important to those residents who’ve invested,” he said. “Again, in Jersey City these tend to be very high-end units, and to not have sort of that influence and to not have their voice heard has been a continuous problem.”
“In my view, it was a basic issue of fairness and democracy,” Chiaravalloti said. “Basically, bringing some democracy to the association.”
Though the bill was approved 35-0 by the Senate in December, it can’t go to Christie until senators vote to agree with a series of amendments made in the Assembly.