Can we order our residents to evacuate our association in cases of things like hurricanes? Does a state emergency order play a role? If the state orders a mandatory evacuation can we fine residents who remain?

Most Association documents make violating the law a violation of the Association’s governing documents.  If this language appears in the governing documents, then the Association can theoretically fine members who defy an Order by the State to evacuate.  

The question as to whether the Association should engage in such a process is a political question and requires a measurement of what is to be gained by doing so, versus what would befall the Association if it did not. For example, fining a person who just lost all his belongings in a storm would not go over well in the community.
Robert Griffin, Esq.
Griffin Alexander PC
415 Route 10 
2nd Floor
Randolph NJ 07869-2100
Tel:973- 366-1188

These are governmental issues not HOA issues.
Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel PC
Stephen Buschmann
151 N. Delaware St.
Suite 1900
Indianapolis IN 46204-2505
(317) 686-4773

Unless there is language in the Governing Documents, the Association has no authority to require residents to evacuate their houses/units in case of natural disaster. However, the Association can require evacuation of common elements as they are owned by the Association.
If the state orders a mandatory evacuation and some residents remain, there is no authority for the Association to fine them unless there is specific language in the Governing Documents. 

Generally, if the State or local authorities have not issued an evacuation order, the answer is no.  Unless your governing documents had an unusual provision granting the board the authority to issue an evacuation order, absent a government order of evacuation, the board would not have the authority to issue such an order.  Typically, the powers of a board are far greater with respect to the use of the common elements as opposed to the use of the units.  A board cannot unilaterally tell an owner that he or she must leave their own home, when the governmental entity hasn’t made that determination.  If the State has issued a mandatory evacuation order and your governing document require an owner to comply with all law, then it might be possible to fine an owner for failing to evacuate. If, though, an owner didn’t evacuate and it did not cause the association or fellow owners any harm, it would appear to be an overreaction to a situation where the association’s efforts might be better targeted towards recovering from the hurricane, rather than seeking to fine owners who failed to evacuate.

J. David Ramsey


Member, College of Community Association Lawyers

Becker & Poliakoff

1776 on the Green

67 Park Place, Suite 702

Morristown, NJ 07960

Tel: 973.898.6502

Fax: 973.898.6506