Be Careful What You Wish For: Arbitration Is Not Mediation

Posted by on Dec 5, 2017 in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Legal Decisions

By Michael S. Karpoff, Esq.

A recent decision by the Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court demonstrates the need for precision in defining what method of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) an association utilizes or agrees to. Carelessly referring to the ADR procedure as an arbitration can make the ultimate decision binding upon the parties, even if one of the parties had something else in mind.

Attorneys’ Communications Outweighed Asserted Intent

In Marano v. The Hills Highlands Master Association, Inc., which was decided on November 16, 2017, the Court rejected the Association’s argument that it was not bound by an arbitration award because the procedure it had used was intended to be a mediation. The Court found that plaintiff’s counsel had repeatedly referred to the procedure as an arbitration and the hearing officer as the arbitrator without objection by the Association’s attorney, and, in fact, the Association’s attorney had referred on at least one occasion to the hearing officer as “the arbitrator.” The hearing officer submitted to the attorneys an agreement to mediate, which they signed; however, she apparently understood her role as being an arbitrator because she later issued an “Award in Arbitration.”

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In Case You Missed It: What You Should Know About the Radburn Bill (Webinar Video)

Posted by on Oct 17, 2017 in Alternative Dispute Resolution, Board Meetings, Elections/Voting, Legislation, Speaking Engagements

On August 22, 2017 and September 13, 2017, Hill Wallack‘s Ronald L. Perl, Esq., Caroline Record, Esq. and Jonathan H. Katz, Esq., in conjunction with Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., presented two webinars dealing with what you and your community association should know about the new Radburn Bill.

In case you missed either of these webinars, you can view them by clicking here.

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Electronic Voting Now Authorized in New Jersey Community Associations

Posted by on Aug 17, 2017 in Board Meetings, Elections/Voting, Legislation

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

One of the overlooked effects of the recent Radburn Legislation is that it now provides statutory authority for New Jersey community associations to vote electronically. Specifically, the new law authorizes an association to utilize electronic voting: (1) when the board determines to allow voting by such means; and (2) when an association member consents to casting a vote electronically.

While this issue may not have come up previously in many associations, many states’ non-profit corporate statutes or association enabling statutes do not specifically address and/or authorize the option of electronic voting. In addition, most corporate statutes provide that elections and other action can be taken only at an in-person meeting of members or, if no meeting is to be held, by unanimous consent of the members. For example, New Jersey’s Non-Profit Corporations Act, provides only that elections of trustees may be conducted by mail and the Act authorizes decisions to be made in lieu of an in-person meeting only “if all the members entitled to vote thereon consent thereto in writing.” There is no mention of voting by electronic means.

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HUD Releases Final Rule Related to Discrimination in Community Associations

Posted by on Aug 2, 2017 in Disability Accommodations, Fair Housing, Legislation

By Caroline Record, Esq.

In September 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) released final regulations relating to housing discrimination, which now require community associations to investigate claims of harassment by one resident of another resident who is a member of a  “protected class.” Under the Fair Housing Act, a protected class includes race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status and disability/handicap. In the past, if an association resident harassed another association resident, the association’s board or community manager may have viewed this as a personal issue, which would not be within the association’s scope of responsibility to investigate/address. This position was based on the belief that the association neither encouraged nor participated in the alleged harassing conduct and, therefore, could not be responsible for the conduct of its residents.

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Regarding the Radburn: New Law Enhances Voting Participation Rights in New Jersey Community Associations

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Board Meetings, Elections/Voting, Legal Decisions, Legislation

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

On July 13, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law P.L. 2017, Ch. 106 (S-2492/A-4091). The new law makes significant changes to the Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act (“PREDFDA”), N.J.S.A. 45:22A-43 et seq., with respect to procedures for board elections and voting participation rights. Although the legislation comes in direct response to complaints over a specific association – the Radburn Association in Fair Lawn – it will affect most, if not all, of the estimated 7,000 community associations located in New Jersey.

As outlined in a January 2017 article, the historic Radburn was established in 1929 as a “Town for the Motor Age.” The Radburn boasts 18 acres of internal parks, a shopping plaza, an elementary school, and “other remnants of the founders’ ambitious attempt to create a self-sufficient community.” However, for the past decade, pressure has been increasing from residents seeking to change what they considered to be an outdated and secretive process that the Raburn utilizes to elect its Board of Trustees. Specifically, not every owner in the Radburn was granted the right to either run for or vote for its Board. These issues led to litigation and caused so much uproar that State Senator Robert Gordon (D-Fair Lawn) introduced this legislation to make the election/voting process more inclusive and transparent.

Now that this legislation has been signed into law, it will change not only the Radburn’s elections, but will also have implications for most of New Jersey’s condominiums and homeowners associations. In fact, most of these newly enacted provisions will trump every association’s current by-laws. The most relevant provisions of the new legislation are as follows:

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