Perhaps the most important—though possibly the least-read—set of documents governing homeowners associations is the master deed.
The master deed is essentially the legal lynchpin of the entire condominium association and should be made available to owners for examination. Miranda, a spokesman for the Trenton-based New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) describes it as "a comprehensive statute with thirty-eight sections governing everything from creation to dissolution.
"That limitation," Hallenborg explains, "means the association itself wouldn't be burdened by a long-term sweetheart contract." The act also governs the transition of control from the developer to the association and the new unit owners.
The act gives unit owners the right to receive notice of board meetings and an opportunity to attend.
According to Miranda, while new unit owners aren't usually given full copies of their association's financial records dating back to the creation of the community, they can and should expect more than a nice fruit basket when they move in.
Association members can vote for or against directors, but in New Jersey they generally cannot act to approve or reject their association's annual budget. That doesn't mean that the board doesn't have to answer for its actions, says Smith.
"They're responsible for the operation, management and administration of the association.
Self-government like this appeals to those who like to have a say in how their community is managed and determines when to take certain actions, such as repairs, improvements, and additions.
The system also establishes rules, however; and if not properly balanced, those rules can occasionally come into conflict with the rights of individual homeowners.
The act also defines what documents the association and unit owners are entitled to get when they take over control, such as bank accounts, insurance policies, copies of the original documents, and land surveys.
Another function of the act is to establish rules and regulations.
They are subject to verification of any unique or extraordinary expenses." "Extraordinary" expenses usually include capital improvements; rare is the board that has the right to just install a new swimming pool or a new clubhouse without a great deal of involvement and the full cooperation of the rest of the association.