Disputes between adjoining condominium owners or members of homeowners associations are a commonly occurring Rhode Island real estate issue. Members of condominium or homeowners associations may have differing interpretations of the foundational documents, which can lead to disputes over governing the association. The Rhode Island Superior Court recently released a ruling that put to rest a dispute between the owners of two adjacent condominiums over governance and renovations.
The plaintiff in the recently decided case was the owner of one unit of a two-unit condominium, who sued the owner of the other unit over the defendant’s renovation of certain common areas of the condominium without the plaintiff’s consent and in violation of the governing documents of the condominium. According to the appellate opinion, the two-unit condominium was governed by a two-member board of directors (each unit owner being represented by one member), and any improvements or changes to the condominium required both members’ approval.
Prior to the plaintiff’s filing suit, the defendant expressed a desire to make certain expansions and structural changes to their unit. The plaintiff requested a proposal as well as plans of the renovations before giving their approval. Instead of furnishing the plaintiff with the plans as requested and seeking their approval under the condominium governing rules, the defendant represented to the municipal building authority that the board of directors had approved the renovations, and they obtained a permit to start construction; the plaintiff filed the suit to stop construction soon thereafter.
The trial court and the appellate court agreed that the defendant violated the governing documents of the condominium, and they issued an injunction that prevented the defendant from completing the renovations. On appeal, the superior court additionally addressed arguments brought by the defendants that the requirement of unanimous approval from a two-member board of directors in order to complete renovations was invalid and unenforceable.
The appellate court rejected the defendant’s arguments, noting that the governing scheme and rules are permitted under Rhode Island state law, and that the requirement for unanimous consent to complete renovations was clearly set out in the condominium documents, to which the defendant agreed before purchasing their unit. The appellate court went further, finding that the defendants had acted in bad faith in failing to seek the approval of the plaintiff and cooperate in furnishing the requested documentation, as well as violating the agreement. The court then awarded substantial attorney fees to the plaintiff in addition to issuing the injunction.
Are You Involved in a Condominium or Homeowners Association Dispute?
If you are in the process of purchasing a condo or forming a condominium association, the founding documents of the association will play a large role in the management of the property and the resolution of potential disputes between unit owners. With the help of a skilled Rhode Island real estate lawyer from the law firm of Bilodeau Capalbo, LLC, you can be sure that your rights and interests are protected before entering into an association. If you are already involved in a dispute that may require legal action, one of our qualified attorneys can advise and represent you to help resolve the dispute in your favor. To schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with a dedicated real estate attorney at Bilodeau Capalbo, call 401-300-4055 today.