‘Not a Trenton takeover,’ but senior communities worry
A seemingly innocuous, mundane bill – updating state laws to reflect national standards from the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, as suggested by the New Jersey Law Revision Commission – has caused alarm among some age-restricted developments.
The bill, S2425, seeks uniformity in how state law treats condominiums, cooperatives and age-restricted communities. It cruised through the Senate by a 34-2 vote in June and now awaits consideration in the Assembly, which is likely to remain in recess until after the November election.
Sen. Chris Connors, R-Ocean, said it’s laudable to seek to merge and update various older laws that aren’t always consistent but that the bill goes further, raising concerns about a Trenton takeover and higher costs.
“For instance, there is a section within the bill that says that if a governing body’s declarations or bylaws do not cover a specific provision, there would be default provisions that could be placed in there. That’s a substantive change,” Connors said.
“Common-interest communities want to govern themselves. They don’t want Trenton going in and governing them,” said Connors, who said he has heard from a number of common-interest communities in his district, where they are common.
Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, said that’s not what the bill seeks to do.
“The governance of those communities will remain with those communities. This is not a Trenton takeover of any common-interest communities,” Singleton said.
“This misnomer that somehow this increases property taxes, takes over the ownership and autonomy that many of these associations have, it’s just that, a misnomer. And it’s not fact,” he said.
Critics of the bill fear it could increase maintenance fees through the provision that discusses assessments of a development’s common property.
Singleton said that while he thinks that the bill’s intent clear, he’s open to amending it to ensure some worst-case fears couldn’t come true, such as the applicability of the Law Against Discrimination.
The idea has been stalled in Trenton for almost 20 years and ironically has been slimmed down to remove some of the more contentious ideas, such as elections, meetings and alternative dispute resolution. Those could come up in a subsequent bill.
“There were certain provisions that were controversial, and we came to an understanding that it’s better to deal with those on a piece-by-piece basis,” said J. David Ramsey, an attorney in Morristown and past president of the New Jersey chapter of the Community Associations Institute.