In New Jersey, the Board of a condominium association may, under emergent circumstances, have a limited right of access to units within their Association without advance notice or consent of the unit owner. Condominium association boards should be careful when exercising these rights, however, as it may be difficult to evaluate whether the circumstances justify such access. If the access is unjustified by the circumstances, then the unit owner may have a legitimate dispute against the condominium association board.
Generally, access to a unit within a condominium association must be preceded by “reasonable notice” and the consent of the owner. However, there may be emergency situations that could justify Board access to a unit without reasonable, advance notice or consent of the unit owner.
Section 46:8B-15(b) of the New Jersey Condominium Act grants the council of condominium co-owners -- in other words, the condominium association board -- an irrevocable right to access any unit within the condominium association during reasonable hours as may be necessary for the maintenance, repair, or replacement of any of the common elements therein or accessible therefrom. The statute goes on to provide that entry may also be made for the purpose of making of emergency repairs necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to any other unit or units.
Obviously, smoke and flames emanating from a unit call for immediate access by the fire department and other emergency services. Other possible situations may signal the need for a well-being check of the unit owner, such as newspapers collecting on a porch or odors, and hoarding, provided health consequences may constitute a justification for inspection. A water leak or an insect infestation traceable to an adjoining unit generally calls for access to locate the source.
However, it is important to note that not every situation justifies immediate access or even access. It is important for the condominium association's board to first assess whether the situation is truly an emergency before entering a unit, especially without consent. Sometimes it may be necessary to obtain a court order allowing entry into a unit to avoid unit owner litigation after the fact.
The right-of-entry may also be expanded in the Master Deed and Bylaws to include a wider variety of access justifications, including health emergencies. Consult your Association's governing documents to determine the procedure for how the Board may gain access to a unit and under what conditions.
Here at Griffin Alexander, P.C., our partners have decades of combined experience advocating on behalf of condominium associations, boards, and other administrative bodies in disputes involving unit owners and condominium association boards. We understand the challenges typical of such disputes, and how complicated the law can be for those who may be unfamiliar with its intricacies. It is our belief that by working closely with clients at an early stage, we can form a friendly, communicative partnership that empowers us to act decisively on our client's behalf.
We have experience with a range of issues relating to New Jersey condominium law, from helping secure unpaid dues to defending against lawsuits relating to unit access and are capable of representing our clients in both administrative and trial proceedings. Ready to learn more about how to proceed? We encourage you to call (973) 366-1188 or request an appointment online.
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