The Nuts and Bolts of P.L. 2017, Ch. 106: A New Law Improving the Democratic Process in New Jersey Community Association Elections
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law P.L. 2017, Ch. 106 (S-2492/A-4091) on July 13, 2017. This new law, will affect community associations, such as condominiums and homeowner associations, throughout the state of New Jersey by making the board election process more democratic. Additionally, this new legislation will supersede every community association’s by-laws, if there are conflicts between the new law and current By-Laws. Accordingly, many Associations will seek to amend their By-Laws to incorporate provisions of this law. In some cases, elections may have to be postponed in order to work on election procedures.
Some highlights of this new law are as follows:
- Commencing with elections occurring after October 1, 2017, members must be in good standing to either run for or be elected to the board. Unit owners in good standing will have the right to nominate themselves or other unit owners in good standing. Bylaws which require the nomination of a member by a nominating committee or the signing of a petition by other owners will no longer be valid.
- Notices seeking nominees for the board must be sent to all owners not less than thirty (30) days before the notice of the election meeting is sent.
- Notice of the election meeting must go out fourteen (14) or more days before the meeting but not more than sixty (60) days before. Prior to this law, many associations had a minimum notice period of ten days.
- Board members’ names must be listed alphabetically on all ballots.
- Electronic voting in board elections is statutorily authorized and electronic notice of meetings is authorized if permitted by the association’s by-laws.
- Elections must be held in at least two year intervals if the governing documents do not otherwise set a specific time frame for elections.
- The maximum term for a board member must be for four years. However, a board member may continue to serve until his/her successor is elected and a board member may run for re-election if permitted by the governing documents.
- Proxies and absentee ballots may be used but an association may not use proxies without making absentee ballots available. All proxies may be revoked at any time before the proxy holder casts a vote.
- Effective notice includes a proxy ballot/absentee ballot, unless prohibited by the governing documents.
- By-laws may be amended without a vote of the owners in two ways: (1) if amendment of the by-laws is consistent with federal, state or local law; OR (2) if an amendment to the by-laws is proposed together with a ballot to reject the amendment and if not more than 10% of the owners vote within thirty days to reject the amendment to the by-laws, then the amendment will become enacted.
This legislation will undoubtedly require discussion at the association level, in order to assure that the election process works. For example, if a nomination by one member is made of a spouse or neighbor, can that nominee’s name be added to the ballot before the nominated candidate agrees to accept the nomination? If no verification of the candidate’s intention occurs, then it is possible that members will be voting for a candidate who will, upon hearing of the nomination, refuse to serve. If the association conducts verification, then extra time must be added to the period it takes to send final notices to the community. Perhaps the Association can require that nominations only be made with the written consent of the person nominated. If so, forms requiring a signature by the nominee should be made.
Procedures to check for good standing for those nominated or nominating themselves must be adopted. For example, should there be notification by the association to the candidate that he/she is not in good standing? Should there be a cure period during which the candidate can return to good standing by the time of the official notice of election? The timing of the cure period and its effect upon the sending of notices will be important.
It goes without saying that running a successful election is a difficult task for community associations. Assuring fairness in the midst of change is especially difficult. We are here to help. To make sure your community association is fully prepared for a successful election, contact the attorneys of Griffin Alexander, P.C. and begin discussion as to the manner in which these changes will affect your association’s election process.
The information in this Client Alert is provided solely for information purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice on any specific matter and is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based upon particular circumstances. Each legal matter is unique, and prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.
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