Board Members and managers should be pleased to know that the New Jersey Court Rules have been updated which will make litigation against delinquent owners easier and less expensive. On May 11, 2022, the New Jersey Supreme Court approved an increase in the jurisdictional limit for the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Special Civil Part from $15,000 to $20,000, and for Small Claims from $3,000 to $5,000, effective July 1, 2022.
Typically, we prefer to file lawsuits against delinquent owners in the Special Civil Part due to its lower filing fees, expedited discovery and trial date assignments, and quicker judgment executions, such as bank levies and wage garnishments, which are uniquely executed by Special Civil Part officers. Indeed, a suit filed in the Special Civil Part can proceed to a trial date within approximately 4-6 months versus the Law Division which has more expensive filing fees, a longer discovery track, and trial dates scheduled out a year or more, particularly in light of the COVID pandemic.
However, lately with the rise of inflation and usual increases in maintenance fees among community associations, the jurisdictional limit of $15,000 for Special Civil Part cases was easily exceeded when adding up monthly maintenance, special assessments, fines, late fees, attorneys’ fees, and accelerated fees through the end of the fiscal year. More and more cases were required to be filed in the Law Division which adds to the time and expense to achieve a money judgment for outstanding fees. The increase of the jurisdictional limit to $20,000 is a welcomed update to the court rules and will greatly assist community associations in keeping costs down and in obtaining judgments in a quicker and easier manner.
Becker has a team of well-seasoned collection attorneys and litigators that can help your community association maximize recovery of delinquent association assessments. For additional information on this subject, please contact any of our attorneys in the Becker Community Association Practice Group.