SYLVAN GLADE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION v. AVI BRAUDEAnnotate this Case
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE
APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
DOCKET NO. A-0186-14T3
SYLVAN GLADE CONDOMINIUM
ASSOCIATION, d/b/a MAPLE
LEAF PARK ASSOCIATION, INC.,
October 7, 2015
Submitted September 22, 2015 Decided
Before Judges Espinosa and Rothstadt.
On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Ocean County, Docket No. DC-23537-10.
McGovern Legal Services, LLC, attorneys for appellant (Karen B. Miller, of counsel and on the brief).
Respondent has not filed a brief.
Plaintiff, Sylvan Glade Condominium Association, d/b/a Mapleleaf Park Association, Inc. appeals from the Special Civil Part's order denying its motion to amend the final default judgment previously entered in this matter to include an award of post-judgment attorneys fees in plaintiff's favor and against defendant, Avi Braude, a unit owner in plaintiff's condominium. Defendant opposed the motion. The fees plaintiff sought to recover were incurred exclusively in connection with its efforts to collect on the judgment, which the court entered as a result of defendant's default in his obligation to pay monthly charges to plaintiff.
In support of its motion, plaintiff argued the provisions in its condominium documents, which entitled it to collect "reasonable attorneys fees" against a delinquent unit owner, New Jersey's Condominium Act, N.J.S.A. 46:8B-1 to - 38, and our holding in Tanksley v Cook, 360 N.J. Super. 63, 65-67 (App. Div. 2003), a case dealing with New Jersey's Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 to -20, entitled plaintiff to an award of post- judgment attorneys fees. It was not disputed, however, that the condominium documents did not mention "post-judgment" collection costs, including attorneys fees. In his opposition, defendant argued it would be unfair to add additional post-judgment attorneys fees to the amount that was entered as part of the final judgment because he had already confirmed with plaintiff's attorney the amount necessary to satisfy the judgment, borrowed money, and in fact "redeem[ed] the property" by having "paid and satisfied in full" the judgment.
Judge E. David Millard considered counsel's oral argument on the motion on August 19, 2014. Defendant did not appear. After considering plaintiff's counsel's argument, the court denied the motion. In so doing, the judge rejected plaintiff's reliance on Tanksley, distinguishing a consumer fraud claim from an attempt by a condominium association to collect post-judgment attorneys fees, but agreed that the Condominium Act allows for an association, like plaintiff, to collect attorneys fees. However, relying on our decision in Hatch v. T & L Associates, 319 N.J. Super. 644 (App. Div. 1999), the judge ruled that without the condominium documents expressly providing for post-judgment collection fees, the judgment could not be amended. He stated
I'm not saying that a . . . Condo Association, can't collect post-judgment fees, attorney fees. What I am saying is you need to spell it out in your Condo Association [documents,] the notice that people get when they join the Association so that they know that they are potentially on the hook for that, if they don't make the payment.
. . . I'm not satisfied that you've done that. The generic language in the Condo Association [documents] does not include or would not put somebody on notice . . . of such post-judgment attorneys fees.
On appeal, plaintiff argues that it was entitled to amend the judgment as requested because it "met the relevant legal standard," it was statutorily "entitle[ed] to fee shifting [by] the legislative intent to protect condominium associations," and "in the condominium context," fee shifting "is not analogous to fee shifting in a traditional contract case."
We have considered plaintiff's arguments in light of our review of the record and applicable legal principles. We affirm, finding plaintiff's arguments to be without sufficient merit to warrant further discussion in a written opinion, R. 2:11-3(e)(1)(E), essentially for the reasons stated by Judge Millard in his oral decision.