Q&A: When is the Law Not the Law?

Q. Can a condo association that does not follow its bylaws as registered with the state of Rhode Island have the power to enforce its rules and regulations and fine a unit owner?

     — Law-Abiding Owner

A. “The Rhode Island Condo Acts do allow for associations to be unincorporated,” says Frank Lombardi, partner in Lombardi Law Group in Lincoln, Rhode Island. “If, for example, the association failed to file corporate annual reports and lost its charter, it could still operate as an unincorporated entity — and, addressing your inquiry, conduct a Section 3.20 covenant enforcement hearing, and thereafter fine the unit.  

“As is usually the case, should the matter end there, no problem. If, however, should the unit owner contest the matter in Superior Court, or should the association seek injunctive relief, it would have to either: amend the governing documents to delete the requirement of incorporation and ratify its decision to remain unincorporated, or restore the corporate charter or incorporate to be consistent with the governing documents.”

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