Association Can't Limit Free Speech

Superior Court, Appellate Division Committee for a Better Twin Rivers v. Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association, N. J., 2006

June 1, 2006

A New Jersey appellate court has decided that the rules created by a homeowners’ association can’t limit the constitutional rights of residents to share their views on political campaigns.

The Twin Rivers Homeowners’ Association has the authority to make regulations affecting the private property controlled by the Twin Rivers development.

The Committee for a Better Twin Rivers, a nonprofit group of development residents, sued the association. It claimed that the association’s restrictions about posting political notices limited residents’ rights of free speech as guaranteed under the state’s constitution. The committee contended that the association was a quasi-governmental entity, and therefore the same constitutional protections that limit governmental regulation of free speech should apply equally to the association.

The trial court found for the association, but the appeals court partially reversed the ruling. The court stated that in many areas, homeowners’ associations have assumed many of the same responsibilities as local municipalities. For this reason, the residents’ right of free speech outweighed the association’s private property rights.