Common interest community associations should be aware that the New Jersey Municipal Services Act ("MSA") provides a protection from unit owners being "double taxed" for various fees and services for common elements. Each homeowner in all New Jersey municipalities pays taxes towards services like garbage and recyclables collection, road obstruction removal, street lighting and snow removal. Additionally, homeowners who live in condominiums and/or homeowners associations may be required to pay for those same services themselves, usually through monthly maintenance fees, HOA fees, special assessment fees, or condo fees paid directly toan association to provide those services. The MSA protects those owners and communities from paying twice for those services; it gives the local municipality the option of either providing the services directly to the association’s owners, or offering reimbursements of equal value to the association or owner for all expenses relating to garbage collection, street lighting, and snow removal. Aside from these specific services, associations are generally only entitled to the same reimbursements for services that other homeowners in the municipality are provided.
Although the MSA was enacted over 17 years ago, many associations are still unaware of the protection that is available to them. For example, unit owners in a Dover, New Jersey condominium have tried to enter into an alternative dispute resolution by sending a petition to the mayor of Dover to obtain a monthly reimbursement of nearly $800 for trash removal services. Although the Township of Dover is offering to provide curbside garbage pickup for each of the 69 owners twice a week, the owners of the building argue that fitting 69 garbage cans in front of the building would be a logistical and health nightmare. Both the association and the municipality are unaware of the requirements of the MSA, the rights that it affords to homeowners and the municipalities responsibilities thereafter. Associations and homeowners in this and similar situations should know that they have the right to sue the town and force the municipality to either provide the required services directly, or provide the entitled reimbursements.