Homeowner Associations subject to Constitutional Free Speech Guarantees
The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division, ruled Feb. 7 that privately owned homeowner associations may be subject to free speech and other guarantees under the state’s constitution. Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association, No. A-4047-03T2.
The ruling is significant because it extends to private entities such as condo associations the same state constitutional mandates that would apply to the actions of government bodies. New Jersey already is on the forefront of such law by allowing free speech rights in private shopping malls.
"In the exercise of fundamental rights, we discern no principled basis for distinguishing between the general public at large and the members of a community association," the court wrote.
A committee of homeowners in the association and three residents of Twin Rivers sued the association in a nine-count complaint. Among their complaints were that the Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association restricted their display of political signs, denied access or a right of reply in the association’s newsletter, refused to rent the community room in the association at a reasonable fee and weighed voting rights based on property values.