Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association

On Thursday, July 26, 2007, the New Jersey Supreme Court issued its much awaited and highly anticipated decision in Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association.  In overturning the Appellate Division’s decision and reinstating the decision of the Trial Court, the Supreme Court found that common interest community associations could lawfully impose reasonable restrictions on its members – such as restricting the posting of political signs on common elements or allowing access to a community newsletter – and that such restrictions do not violate the New Jersey Constitution’s protections regarding freedom of expression and equal protection.

At issue in Twin Rivers was the question of whether the New Jersey Constitution’s speech and assembly clauses should be applied to limit the authority of homeowners’ associations to promulgate certain community-wide restrictions and, if so, under what circumstances.  In the lower court’s decision, Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association, 383 N.J. Super. 22 (App. Div. 2006), the Appellate Division found that because common interest community associations have supplanted certain responsibilities once undertaken by towns and municipalities, the individual members’ state constitutional rights to free speech outweigh the restrictions imposed by homeowners associations, even though such property is private rather than public.  

In the Supreme Court’s decision, authored by Justice John E. Wallace, Jr., the Court determined that even in light of New Jersey’s broad interpretation of its constitutional free speech provisions, the “nature, purposes, and primary use of Twin Rivers property is for private purposes and does not favor a finding that the Association’s rules and regulations violated plaintiffs’ constitutional rights.”  Moreover, the Court found that “plaintiffs’ expressional activities are not unreasonably restricted” by the Association’s rules and regulations.  Finally, the Court held that “the minor restrictions on plaintiffs’ expressional activities are not unreasonable or oppressive, and the Association is not acting as a municipality.”

You can read the Supreme Court’s decision in Twin Rivers here.