Q: Does a condominium association board have an obligation to disclose information to an owner about an individual who is leasing a unit? If the lessee has a permanent guest with a criminal background does the board have an obligation to disclose this to the owner?
A: Typically, a condominium association in New Jersey would not have an obligation to disclose information to an owner about another resident who is renting a unit or is a guest in a unit. The New Jersey Condominium Act sets forth the duties of a governing board of a condominium association. With respect to disclosures, the Condominium Act specifically requires the association to maintain accounting records, in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, open to inspection at reasonable times by unit owners. See N.J.S.A. 46:8B-14(g). Such records include (i) a record of all receipts and expenditures and (ii) an account for each unit setting forth any shares of common expenses or other charges due. The Condominium Act further states that the board shall have such other duties as set forth in the master deed or bylaws. N.J.S.A. 46:8B-14(i). Therefore, unless the master deed or bylaws set forth disclosure obligations in addition to those above, there is generally no duty to disclose information with respect to tenants.
Nevertheless, the Condominium Act still requires the board to exercise its power and discharge its functions in a manner that protects and furthers or is not inconsistent with the health, safety and general welfare of the residents of the community. Thus, where there is a risk of foreseeable criminal harm, an association has an obligation to take reasonable action. What that reasonable action may be depends on the particular facts. Therefore, the board must balance the possibility that any specific notice to other residents of the community may result in the resident that lawfully resides in the community being harassed by other residents, thereby creating a potential liability for the association. This is a very complex balancing act for the board and it should not be undertaken without the advice of the association’s attorney.
It would be a rare case in which notice of past criminal history of a resident should be reported to the other owners in the community. That determination should be made in consult with the association’s attorney and consider the type of crime committed (such as whether the crime was violent in nature), the age of the person at the time the crime was committed, the length of time since the crime was committed, and the amount of time during which the person has not been subject to incarceration and has not committed another crime. Even where the decision to disclose such matters is made, the board should ensure that the notice is limited to purely factual matters.