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Sterling Arms Condominium Association, Inc. v. Croasdale

A-142-98T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1999) (Unpublished)

CONDOMINIUMS; ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION—Where there was no factual issue in dispute, merely a situation where a board was to decide whether to allow an exception to its rules, no alternative dispute resolution was required.

A condominium association denied a unit owner’s request to keep a dog in violation of the association’s rules. The owner wanted an exception because “the dog is crucial to [his] mental health in coping with mother’s [death].” The unit owner contended that “(1) the board did not provide a fair and efficient extra-judicial procedure to resolve disputes between the board and a unit owner, and (2) the board arbitrarily and capriciously denied him due process and equal protection of law.” The association, through its counsel, offered the unit owner a hearing on his plea for an exception to the rule about pets. Because the attorney’s letter went unanswered, the lower court concluded that the unit owner had abandoned the opportunity for a hearing before the association or its nominees. The Appellate Division accepted this factual conclusion. Further, the lower court also concluded “that there was no adjudicable dispute here, i.e., factual issue, but simply a situation where the Association was called upon to exercise its business judgment for sound discretion whether to allow an exception to the rules.” According to the testimony submitted on behalf of the association, the association considered and sympathized with the unit owner’s medical instability but denied the request for an exemption. The Court found that the rule against pets was properly included within the condominium’s Master Deed and that the association was authorized by its Master Deed and its By-laws to enforce the no-pet provision. The Court also found that the association’s board was authorized to grant exceptions or exemptions to the no-pets rule. With respect to the requirement that condominium associations provide a fair and efficient procedure for the resolution of disputes, the Court agreed with the lower court that there was no factual “dispute” for resolution. The Master Deed said dogs were not permitted and the unit owner had a dog on the premises. The unit owner did not ask for an exception until after he was informed that he was in violation of the Master Deed. This left only the question as to whether the association’s board was reasonable in denying the exception. The Court determined that the association was authorized by its By-laws to act and that its action was not fraudulent, nor was it either self-dealing or unconscionable. Further, the Court found that the association’s action was in good faith. Having so decided, the Court refused to interfere with the decision of the association and ordered the unit owner to remove the dog from his unit.


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