While New Jersey’s Condominium Act (the “Act”) does not expressly (and thus statutorily) mandate that a condominium provide the delinquent owner with notice or a copy of its recorded lien, such notice is standard and the most appropriate practice. It is very highly advisable that such notice be provided, so as not to risk a ruling that said lien must be discharged, along with other things.
As background, the Act at § 46:8B-21(a) provides: “The association shall have a lien on each unit for any unpaid assessment duly made by the association for a share of common expenses or otherwise, including any other moneys duly owed the association, upon proper notice to the appropriate unit owner, together with interest thereon and, if authorized by the master deed or bylaws, late fees, fines and reasonable attorney’s fees; provided however that an association shall not record a lien in which the unpaid assessment consists solely of late fees.” (emphasis added). Notably, the Legislature did not define the term “proper notice” in the statute. The Loigman court, however, provided its interpretation of the term “proper notice”: “[I]t would seem apparent that [the N.J. Legislature] must have intended to impose that type of notice which would give the unit owner knowledge of the lien’s existence and an opportunity to do something about it.” In addressing the type of notice necessary to make an assessment lien effective pursuant to N.J.S.A. § 46:8B-21(a), the court stated that
“the proper balancing of the rights of both a unit owner and a condominium association requires that the association provide simultaneous notice, or notice within a reasonable time thereafter, of the recording of the lien.”
Taking these principles into account, the Loigman court held that a condominium failed to provide condo owners with adequate notice of the recording of the assessment lien in question and determined that discharge of the lien was the appropriate remedy. The court arrived at this conclusion because: “The notice sent by defendants merely advised plaintiffs of the potential-sometime in the future-of the Association’s pursuit of legal remedies. It did not say when these efforts would occur nor did the letter say which of these remedies would be pursued. Rather, the Association only made the ambiguous assertion that it might commence a lawsuit “and/or” file a lien. And when defendants ultimately forwarded a Notice of Lien to the county clerk’s office for recording, no notice was simultaneously, or at any time thereafter, given to plaintiffs.” As an aside, the Loigman decision is also valuable for its holding that a condominium’s attorney complied with the FDCPA by sending a letter to the delinquent owners containing (i) the amount of debt; (ii) the name of creditor; (iii) a statement that if the validity of the debt, or any part of it, is disputed then the debtor must so advise within 30 days or the debt will be assumed to be valid; and (iv) a statement that if the debtor notifies the creditor within 30 days that the debt or any part of the debt is disputed, then the creditor will provide verification of the debt before proceeding with any further collection activity.