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As condominiums become an ever-larger part of Rhode Island’s housing market, a Lincoln Democrat is seeking to enhance condo dwellers’ legal rights on two separate fronts.
Major mill redevelopments, conversions of rental and large single-family properties and new developments catering to empty-nesters and young professionals have dramatically increased the availability of condos in the state, especially in the high-end market.
Last year, the Rhode Island Association of Realtors reported, 1,883 condos were sold in the state, or about one for every four houses – a drop from the previous year’s 2,251, but still a big leap from the 1,371 sold in 2001, when the ratio was just over one to seven.
Historically, condo complexes have been treated like commercial buildings in many municipalities. In West Warwick, for example, condo dwellers don’t get free trash collection and snow plowing on their streets; the condo association has to hire outside contractors at its own expense, said Rep. Rene R. Menard, who represents parts of Lincoln and Cumberland.
Menard is sponsoring a bill, now before the House Corporations Committee, to require any community that doesn’t provide municipal services to condominiums to either do so, or reimburse the condo association for the cost of an outside contractor.
In the latter situation, the condo association would have to secure at least three bids, and the municipality would only have to pay the lowest price offered.
Menard noted that condo owners pay property taxes just like single-family house owners, and their properties are often assessed at far more per square foot than houses. “This homeowner has to pay for taxes, as well as trash removal and snow plowing,” Menard said.
Menard is also sponsoring a bill that would repeal a portion of the state’s condominium law that requires condominium associations to get approval from mortgage holders before they can sell unused development rights.
When condominium developments are approved, the developer is usually required to build all phases of the development within a specified time period, or else forfeit the development rights, which revert to the condominium association. But to exercise those rights, the association must have the approval of 75 percent of unit owners and their mortgage holders.
Menard’s bill would eliminate the need for approval from the banks, and it also would change the standard for assessing a common expense against an individual unit owner from “misconduct” to “negligence or any intentional act or omission.”