New Jersey Supreme Court Distinguishes Luchejko and Holds Community Association Is Not Immune from Liability for Failure to Clear Ice and Snow from Private Sidewalks

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 in Insurance, Legal Decisions, Safety

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

On August 12, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued a decision in Qian v. Toll Brothers Inc., which determined that community associations are not entitled to immunity from claims of personal injury sustained on private sidewalks that comprise part of an association’s common property. In deciding Qian, the Court made clear that its 2011 decision in Luchejko v. City of Hoboken, which held that associations were immune from liability for the failure to adequately clear snow and ice from a public sidewalks, does not apply in the context of an association’s private, common property. Although the result is not surprising based on the long-standing common law concerning tort liability, it does clarify the distinction between the potential liability of a community associations for private versus public sidewalks.

As discussed in a previous blog post, in Qian a resident in an adult residential community was injured after a slip and fall on ice following a winter storm. Qian sued the association, its developer (who controlled the board), its managing agent and the contractor responsible for snow and ice removal. The Trial Court dismissed the claims against the association, developer and managing agent based in part on the decision in Luchejko.

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New Jersey Supreme Court to Hear Argument on Association’s Liability for Failure to Clear Ice and Snow from Common Sidewalks

Posted by on Mar 12, 2015 in Insurance, Legal Decisions, Safety

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

On March 16, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court will hear argument on Qian v. Toll Brothers Inc. to answer the question of whether a community association can be found liable for the failure to adequately clear snow and ice from its common sidewalks.

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Disaster Planning: New Law Mandates Over 55 Communities to Maintain Emergency Building Operations Plans

Posted by on Apr 1, 2014 in Legislation, Safety

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

On January 13, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law P.L. 2013, Ch. 186 (A-3625/S-2343), which requires age-restricted multiple dwelling owners – including certain condominiums and homeowners associations – to annually prepare and maintain emergency building operations plans.

This new law requires that qualified community associations and other facilities, which are defined as consisting of more than 20 dwelling units that reserve occupancy for residents of 55 years and older, shall be required to maintain an emergency building operations plan in coordination with the municipal emergency management coordinator. The plan would prepare the building for any possible loss of essential services, such as electricity, heat, water, hot water, gas or telephone service, and any other substantial disruption to daily living that could result during an emergency. The law requires that a copy of the plan be filed annually with the municipal emergency management coordinator and with any public utility providing service to the multiple dwelling. The new law takes effect immediately.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.

For more information on this legislation or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.

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New Law Mandates Notification of Roof-Mounted Solar Panels

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in Architectural Controls, Legislation, Safety

By Jonathan H. Katz, Esq.

What do cold cuts, solar panels and an 11-alarm fire have to do with community associations?

On September 1, 2013, a massive fire destroyed a Dietz & Watson cold storage facility in Delanco, Burlington County, and caused the roof, which was lined with more than 7,000 solar panels, to collapse within hours. Solar panels, it seems, are particularly hazardous to firefighters in that they prevent a clear path to the roof and create a possibility of electric shock due to the fact that the electricity to the panels cannot be shut off.

The legislature responded quickly, and on January 17, 2014, Governor Chris Christie signed into law Assembly Bill A-266 (S-507), mandating that building owners, including community associations, must provide notice to local fire officials of any solar panels mounted on their building’s rooftops. The law also provides that all municipal agencies that issue permits for roof-mounted solar panels must provide a copy of the permit to the local fire official within ten (10) days of issuance.

All residential and commercial structures are required to comply with the law’s requirements, which means that all condominiums and homeowners associations will be required to provide the requisite notice if solar panels are installed on its roofs.

In addition, the new law mandates the promulgation of new rules requiring the posting of an emblem on a building’s front entrance to signify the presence of roof top solar panels. The legislation will be implemented by the Department of Community Affairs (“DCA”) and takes effect immediately.

You can read the full text of the legislation here.

For more information on this case or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.

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Enforcement of Furnace Efficiency Standards Delayed… Again

Posted by on May 21, 2013 in Architectural Controls, CAI, Legal Decisions, Legislation, Safety

By Ronald L. Perl, Esq.

The high efficiency furnace rules case has taken a new procedural turn. On May 1, 2013, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an emergency order staying implementation of the new rules requiring non-weatherized gas furnaces installed in the northern regions of the country to be 90% efficient.  That order did not resolve the case but rather simply put on hold the application of the proposed regulations until the court actually rules on the propriety of a settlement agreement entered by the parties. The effect of this ruling is that the new standards did not take effect on May 1, 2013 as initially proposed, but no decision has yet been made whether they will take effect on a future date.

For those who have been following the issue, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) promulgated new energy conservation standards for air conditioners and heating units. A portion of the new standards applies to new installations of non-weatherized gas furnaces on or after May 1, 2013 and increases the efficiency requirements of those units from 78% to 90%. A lawsuit challenging the furnace standards on both substantive and procedural grounds was filed by the American Public Gas Association. The lawsuit was settled last year, and for several months, the settlement has been awaiting the approval of the appeals court. The DOE announced in April that it would not begin enforcing the new rules before the court rules on the settlement agreement. The recent court ruling neither approved nor disapproved the settlement but stayed implementation of the new rules, thus officially preventing the DOE from enforcing the rules for the time being. It also set some procedural requirements for the eventual hearing on the merits.

The proposed standards are significant to community associations because the new furnaces vent much differently than existing ones and require modifications to units and common elements, which may be difficult or impossible because of space limitations or building code issues.

You can view the District of Columbia Circuit’s order here.

For more information on this or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.

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Enforcement of Furnace Efficiency Standards Delayed

Posted by on Apr 25, 2013 in Architectural Controls, CAI, Legal Decisions, Legislation, Safety

By Ronald L. Perl, Esq.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it will not enforce the rules requiring more efficient residential natural gas furnaces that were to go into effect May 1, 2013, pending the outcome of the lawsuit challenging those rules and an anticipated settlement requiring re-evaluation of the standards to be applied. The new rules would have required at least 90% efficiency for non-weatherized gas furnaces installed in New Jersey and other northern states after April 30. The proposed standards are significant to community associations because the new furnaces vent much differently than existing ones and require modifications to units and common elements, which may be difficult or impossible because of space limitations or building code issues.

The lawsuit has resulted in a settlement that would vacate the rules, but that settlement requires the approval of a Federal Appeals Court, which has not yet scheduled a hearing on the issue. Although the rules remain intact, the DOE will not enforce them. According to the DOE’s statement, “In an exercise of its enforcement discretion, DOE will, during the pendency of the litigation, act in a manner consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement with regard to the enforcement of the standards.”

Therefore homeowners may continue to install residential natural gas furnaces that do not meet the 90% efficiency rating, pending resolution of the case.

You can view the Enforcement Policy Statement here.

For more information on this or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.

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