This past April a Connecticut condominium association reversed its decision to prohibit Mezuzahs on the doorposts of residents’ apartments. A Mezuzah is a Jewish religious article in the shape of a small rectangle, which contains sacred parchment and is affixed to the doorpost.
The Association had earlier threatened a Jewish resident, Barbara Cadranel with a $50 a day fine until she removed a mezuzah from her doorpost. The dispute became national news, Cadranel threatened to sue and now the condo association has backed down. The ban, had it been enforced, raised interesting First Amendment and equal protection issues. The association allowed residents to display items on doors such as Christmas wreaths and crucifixes, but Jewish residents could not affix mezuzahs to their doorposts.
The legal relationship between the condo association, typically represented by its Boards of Managers, and the condo’s residents is governed by Article 9-B of the Real Property Law, more commonly known as the Condominium Act. The Condominium Act requires the by-laws to contain protections of the common interests of unit owners and board members. For example the act prohibits a rule or bylaw which puts an unreasonable restraint on alienation. The board then can’t sell common areas without the knowledge and consent of the unit owners. On the other hand the act contains provisions allowing the board to obtain injunctive relief to collect unpaid financial obligations.
Individual unit owners still must comply strictly with the bylaws, regulations, resolutions, and decisions of the condominium Boards of Managers. However, the Board itself must follow the condominium’s own declaration, bylaws or internal rules and regulations. It must also exercise prudent business judgment in making decisions, just like any other corporate board of directors.
Like the Connecticut condo’s association learned after their short lived attempt to ban the Jewish Mezuzah, the legal rights and responsibilities of all parties still remain subject to federal law guaranteeing equal protection and freedom of religion.