Here’s a hypothetical for you. Imagine that you’re a homeowner of one unit among hundreds of condos and townhouses in a sprawling planned development in New Jersey. Could you even remotely envision being tasked by your homeowners association to cough up thousands of dollars for a structural problem occurring in two units at the other end of your community?
Even if such a scenario seems flatly foreign to you, it isn’t for the hundreds of residents living in the Wayne community of Brittany Chase. They are living in a virtual nightmare, made most real by pro-rata charges imposed upon them (pegged to the square footage of their units) by their HOA for soil-linked construction defects that are literally sinking two town houses.
Here’s what has ensnared them: state law and relevant legal documents addressing their properties that identify home foundations as common elements. That designation renders them liable as HOA members to make payments individually that are marked due as special or emergency assessments.
Readers might logically think that a negligent developer might be pursued for damages in any case where material property defects are discovered. That is a reasonable assumption, but not the case in the Brittany Chase matter. Reportedly, the statute of limitations governing such a claim has expired. Moreover, the developer has gone out of business.
Homeowners are understandably perplexed and irate.
“I thought it was impossible for them to do that,” says one homeowner who received a $4,000 payment demand from the HOA.
The matter is both unfortunate and instructive. Fundamentally, it stresses the importance for any prospective buyer of a unit in a planned community to be thoroughly aware of all key points in the legal contracts and documents that govern property purchases.
An experienced New Jersey real estate attorney can provide additional information.