Regent Beach Condominium Association v. Capolino

A New Jersey Appellate Court recently upheld a trial court’s refusal to force a common interest community unit owner to pay a special assessment levied to cover the replacement of each unit’s sliding glass doors. In Regent Beach Condominium Association v. Capolino, the Appellate Court ruled that this condominium was without the power to assess owners to pay the replace costs of those items included within the definition of “unit”.

Here, sliding glass doors were clearly part of the “unit”, pursuant to New Jersey’s Condominium Act and that condominium’s master deed. Since the Condominium Act permits the common interest community to charge monthly maintenance fees, special assessments, and other condo fees to maintain, repair, protection and/or replace common elements, and the assessment in question in this case related to the replacement of items other than common elements, the assessment was invalid and not due from the complaining owner.

The Appellate Court also rejected the condominium’s argument – one made often by common interest community associations in similar circumstances – that this assessment and the condominium’s replacement of the sliding glass doors were necessary because, if owners were left to replace these doors themselves, the replacement doors might not match those of other units. The Appellate Court felt that even if the Condominium Act allowed the condominium to do this, which it did not, the condominium could have protected against this possibility simply by requiring each owner to replace his door, and then identifying doors similar in style, quality and aesthetic standards, and requiring their use.

The case makes it clear, yet again, that condominiums are authorized to raise and spend owners’ funds to maintain, protect, replace and/or repair only common elements, not units, even if, practically speaking, the owners may be better off in that particular situation if portions of units are replaced using those same owners’ funds.