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Bienvenue Condominiums v. Wilson

A-1455-01T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 2002) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; ASSESSMENTS— If a condominium association wants to collect monthly maintenance fees from a unit owner who has been driven out of its unit by a fire not of its own making, the master deed will need to explicitly require such continued payments.

A condominium unit was totally destroyed by fire, making it uninhabitable for fourteen months. During that period of time, the unit owner refused to pay condominium common maintenance charges. The master deed, mirroring language in New Jersey statutes, provided: “No Unit Owner may exempt himself from liability for his share of Common Expenses by waiver of the enjoyment of the right to use any of the Common Elements or by abandonment of his Unit or otherwise.” The association sued the unit owner for the unpaid charges. The lower court found that the unit owner was not responsible for those fees saying, “[s]he didn’t waive her right to enjoyment. There was no place to enjoy ... [a]nd she didn’t abandon her unit. There was no unit there to abandon… .” The lower court further felt that “[i]f [the condominium association] wanted the right to collect a condo fee from condominium owners who ... through no fault of their own were driven from the apartment because of a fire, I think that it [the master deed] has to be clearer than this.” The Appellate Division agreed, adding that a provision in the association’s insurance policy requiring the association to seek reimbursement for losses from unit owners had no effect on the responsibility of the unit owner.

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