Collections have become an area of increasing concern for condominium associations, as unit owners struggle to pay their maintenance fees on time and in full during the current economic downturn. As unit owners’ debt continues to rise, associations are left with few options to collect: a lien on the unit and a lawsuit against the individual unit owner.
Many condominium associations have been frustrated in their attempts to collect from a unit owner individually, as Special Civil Court judges are often sympathetic to delinquent unit owners, offering extensions, scrutinizing certifications of amounts due, and reducing or eliminating the association’s ability to collect attorneys’ fees. Grandview at Riverwalk Port Imperial Condominium Association is one such association, but its frustrations were recently assuaged on appeal in Grandview at Riverwalk Port Imperial Condominium Association, Inc. v. Han.
In this case, the association sued a unit owner for failure to pay maintenance fees, only to have the Special Civil Court inexplicably deny their demand for attorneys’ fees. The Association appealed the judge’s rejection of their demand and the Appellate Division reversed the Special Civil Court, finding that the fees were authorized by statute and by the Association’s governing documents. Noting that the unit owner had not objected to reasonableness of the attorneys’ fees and that the Appellate Division itself perceived “nothing unreasonable” in the attorneys’ fees, the Appellate Division remanded the matter to have the judgment amended to reflect the attorneys fees.