R.B. from New Jersey writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I am not a resident of Connecticut but I stumbled across your website and thought I’d ask a question. Are there any Federal Guidelines for HOAs Policies and procedures? I’m in New Jersey. My fellow condo owners and I are going through some serious problems with our HOA, which isn’t representing our best interest. And they keep electing themselves back into position against the owner’s wishes. We have formed an Owner’s committee to address our HOA but they will not let us have our say. Is there an agency that can assist us with some advice for a condo complex in NJ?
Mister Condo replies:
R.B., thanks for stopping by and asking a great question. Your neighbors in Connecticut are always willing to help out. Since you live in a larger condominium association (more than 100 units) and seem to already have the support of other condo owners, it seems you are well on your way to solving your problem.
First off, I am not aware of any federal guidelines regarding HOA policies and procedures. There are federal laws regarding taxation but governance issues are left up to the states. In New Jersey, the Department of Community Affairs would be your likely advocate at the state level if it is required. I would encourage you to seek them out only if all else failed. There are an abundance of state laws in New Jersey that should protect you and your fellow unit owners from a Board that isn’t behaving properly.
Boards cannot elect themselves back into position against the owner’s wishes. Elections must be held in an open meeting format and all homeowners must be informed of the meeting and allowed to participate. This is most likely spelled out in your condo documents. My advice is to vote out the problem Board members at your next Election. Of course, you should be prepared to replace these Board members with folks that are sympathetic to your cause. Perhaps you should consider running and serving on the Board.
If your Board refuses to hold open elections and follow the rules of the HOA as outlined in your documents, you have options available to you through the courts. Quite simply, you will sue the Board for not following the rules of the association. You may need to hire an attorney to help you but you should be able to recoup those costs as part of the settlement. However, suing your association is a double-edged sword as the association will likely hire counsel to defend against the suit and will do so at the expense of the association.
If you are not aware of your local chapter of the Community Associations Institute, I encourage you to get to know them by visiting their website at http://www.cainj.org. CAI-NJ is a volunteer organization that can provide you with many helpful resources, including education and networking events. It is quite possible you will encounter other condo associations who have suffered similar fates and learn how they corrected their problems.
The bottom line is that HOA governance is conducted by volunteers. Even the best intentioned can make mistakes. However, correcting those mistakes and creating a better community is in everyone’s best interests. Good luck!