On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Special Civil Part, Monmouth County.
Before Judges Brody, Stern and Keefe.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
The issue presented on appeal is whether the defendant Briarwood Condominium Association (Association) had the power to impose fines and file a lien against plaintiff's property for violating Association rules without resorting to judicial process. Defendant Association appeals from a judgment entered in the Special Civil Part that plaintiff Jane Walker, a former member of the Association, was entitled to a return of $50 in fines which she had paid to the Association. Plaintiff, who appeared pro se in the trial court, does not participate in this appeal. We affirm the judgment under review, but for reasons other than those stated by the trial Judge.
The facts are essentially undisputed. On January 3, 1993, plaintiff's son and son-in-law arrived with a truck at plaintiff's condominium, which plaintiff had recently sold, in order to help plaintiff move some furniture. Because of the considerable distance between the unit and the street, plaintiff's son and son-in-law decided to drive the truck onto the frozen lawn. The activity was observed by the Association's legal counsel who called the police. By the time the police arrived, the truck had been removed from the lawn.
Plaintiff's son had brought his puppy with him when he came to move plaintiff's furniture. The puppy was permitted to run free for some time. However, at or about the time the police arrived, the puppy was placed on a leash. Plaintiff was advised by the Association's legal counsel, who was present at the time, that she would be fined for these two events because they were allegedly in violation of Association Rules and Regulations.
Plaintiff testified that she was not formally notified that fines had actually been imposed until January 15, 1993, the date of the closing, when she learned that the Association had placed a lien on her property for $50. In order to discharge the lien, the $50 fine was paid to the Association. Plaintiff brought suit in the Special Civil Part to recoup the $50 fine that she had paid.
The Association's legal counsel testified that the fines were approved by the Board of Directors on January 14, 1993 and the notice to plaintiff was sent on January 15th. He admitted that plaintiff was not provided with notice that a meeting of the Board to consider such fines would take place. The "Statement of Fines" issued to plaintiff reflected that a fine of $25 was imposed for "truck on lawn; people walking on lawn about truck," in violation of § I, subsections E, D, A and J of the Association's Rules and Regulations. The reason for the other $25 fine was stated as "dog on premises" in violation of § I, subsections N & D.
The trial Judge found that the $25 fine regarding the dog was inappropriate because plaintiff was not "maintaining" a pet on the premises as is required to be proven under the relevant Rule and Regulation. As to the truck on the lawn, the Judge found that the $25 fine was not warranted because no damage was done to the lawn.
On appeal, the Association presents the following issues.
I. THE COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE AUTHORITY OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO PROMULGATE AND ...