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Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules in Condominium Dispute

Rhode Island laws concerning condominium developments are designed to protect the individual owners of multi-unit residential real estate developments while allowing the development association as a whole to implement policies that benefit the ownership unit. Because the ownership of condominium developments is usually shared among two or more separate unit owners, disputes and conflicts are common. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently affirmed a lower court’s ruling that awarded injunctive relief and substantial attorneys fees to one member of a condominium association in a dispute.

The plaintiffs in the recently-decided case own one unit of a two-unit condominium structure. The plaintiffs purchased their unit from the original owners about ten years before the suit was initiated. The defendants purchased the other unit in the structure from the original owners. The controlling condominium agreement required the consent of both unit owners before making any significant structural or exterior modifications to the structure. After purchasing their unit, and without the consent of the plaintiffs, the defendants began modifying the exterior of the building. The Plaintiffs demanded that they cease the construction and filed a lawsuit in Rhode Island Court.
After a four-day trial, the superior court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The Court found that the defendants willfully ignored the condominium agreement, and acted uncooperatively throughout the process. Based on this determination, the trial court ordered the defendants to stop modifying the structure and to pay the plaintiffs over $200,000 in attorneys fees. The defendants appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, arguing that the lower decision was made in error.

The high court agreed with the lower court’s decisions, affirming that the plaintiffs were entitled to the relief they had been granted. The high court emphasized that the substantial attorney’s fees award was justified based on the pattern of uncooperative and obstructionist conduct by the defendants throughout the dispute. It appears that the defendants had a sincere belief that their arguments would prevail, but as a result of their tenacity in pursuing the same claims multiple times, they will be on the hook to pay for a substantial amount of their opponent’s legal costs.

Proper legal advice in a complicated real estate dispute not only increases your chance of victory in your claim, but can prevent you from pursuing a losing claim into oblivion and debt. Litigants who insist on pursuing bad arguments sometimes find themselves owing their opponents large sums in attorney fee awards, which can be devastating to someone who also just lost their substantive claim. Consulting and retaining a competent and diligent Rhode Island real estate lawyer can help prevent this type of loss.

Addressing Disputes Among Condominium Owners

If you or someone you know is experiencing a dispute with a condominium association or HOA, securing competent legal representation early on will increase your chances to prevail. The experienced Rhode Island real estate lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo understand residential disputes, and our dedicated attorneys aren’t afraid to fight for your claim. Discuss your case with one of our skilled Rhode Island real estate attorneys today. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we represent Rhode Island in most real estate cases, including condominium disputes. Contact our offices today and schedule a free consultation by calling 401-300-4055.

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