In a ruling that could have implications far beyond New Jersey, the State Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right of homeowners’ associations to restrict the posting of political signs and other forms of constitutionally protected speech, as long as the restrictions are not “unreasonable or oppressive.”
“We conclude that in balancing plaintiffs’ expressional rights against the association’s private property rights, the association’s policies do not violate the free-speech and right-of-assembly clauses of the New Jersey Constitution,” the court ruled unanimously.
Like many big developments around the country, Twin Rivers is run by a homeowners’ board, and some residents there objected to the restrictions on the political signs as well as restrictions on the use of community rooms for meetings and the publication of dissenting views in the homeowners’ association newspaper.
A state judge supported the association’s contention, ruling that people who moved to the development were aware of the rules and had to abide by them. But last year a state appeals court reversed that ruling, finding that residents of Twin Rivers were entitled by the State Constitution to express themselves as they wished.
The Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated the trial court’s decision.
The ruling could affect about 1.3 million New Jersey residents — nearly 40 percent of all private homeowners — and more than 50 million people around the country whose homes are part of an association.
Blue Jersey has got Ed Barocas, ACLU-NJ Legal Director, commenting on the case.