House OKs Corvese bill aiding resolution of condo disputes
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur J. Corvese to create a less-costly process for resolving minor disputes involving condominium associations and owners.
The legislation (2017-H 5097aa) would allow the parties in such disputes to use the existing court annexed arbitration program in Superior Court to come to a legally binding resolution, with some caveats.
Turning to arbitration instead of lawsuits can save condo associations and unit owners the high cost of hiring attorneys, and would be a simpler solution when it comes to resolving minor issues, said Representative Corvese (D-Dist. 55, North Providence), who said the bill was an idea proposed to him by a constituent.
“Condominium associations have the right to set rules about what can and can’t be done in their communities, but when it comes to a disagreement about the interpretation of those rules, right now, court is the only way to legally resolve it. That’s a very expensive proposition for a homeowner as well as the condo association, which has to pass those expenses on to its members, often a relatively small group. There needs to be another less-costly avenue for resolving minor disputes, and arbitration is a fair, effective solution,” said Representative Corvese.
Under the legislation, condo associations and condo owners could turn to the arbitration program to resolve disputes about the condominium association’s authority to require a condo owner to take action, or desist some action, involving their condo unit, or involving an alteration or addition to a common area. The program could also be used to resolve conflicts involving an association’s duties to properly conduct its elections and meetings and allow access to its books or records.
The bill does not allow the arbitration program to be used for weightier matters, such as title disputes, interpretation or enforcement of warranties, levies of fees or fines, eviction, alleged breaches of fiduciary responsibilities by directors or claims for damages to a unit based upon the alleged failure of the association to maintain the common elements or condominium property. Disputes over those matters would remain the purview of the courts.
Under the bill, the arbitrator’s decision would be binding, unless either party reserves their right to a jury trial, or requests a jury trial if they have already filed a lawsuit.
In addition to saving both parties money, arbitration can also be a quicker and easier resolution for the parties involved, and encourage people to take action if they believe their rights or the rights of themselves and all their neighbors are being violated, said Representative Corvese.
For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903