Any Condominium created in New Hampshire after September 10, 1977 is governed under New Hampshire RSA 356-B, the Condominium Act. In the event of a conflict between the Declaration and By-Laws of your Condominium, the provisions of RSA 356-B shall control. This is why you will see the words, as the same may be amended from time to time, in condominium documents and/or your deed. If a new law is enacted under the statue your condominium is automatically governed by it.
To create a condominium is a lengthy process and it starts by completing an Application with the Office of the Attorney General. There will need to be a Declaration and By-Laws created. These are sometimes referred to as the condominium instruments and the law specifies many of the items that must be included in them. Generally speaking, the Declaration is the document that creates the condominium and the By-Laws spell out the day to day operation of the Association
One item that many owners become confused about pertains to the Master Policy of Insurance and what it covers. Pursuant to RSA 356-B:43, the unit owners association or the board of directors is required to obtain a policy that provides fire and extended coverage in an amount equal to the full replacement value of 100% of the structures within the condominium. This means that you do not purchase the insurance to cover the interior of your unit, the association does. You pay for this coverage as part of your dues. You would, however, need to purchase a separate policy to cover the personal belongings inside your unit. This is not a new law or requirement, it has been in effect since RSA 356-B was created in 1977.
The reason for this law and the requirement for the association to keep the property fully insured is to protect the unit owners. What if unit owners were allowed to purchase their own individual coverage and their were a fire or loss in one unit and it turned out that individual owner had no insurance. There would be no funds available to restore the unit and this would be a detriment to all adjacent owners.
Check back often for more information about condominium ownership in New Hampshire.
For those that may not know, there is a specific law that covers Condominiums and how they are set up. That law is RSA 356-B and is known as the Condominium Act. Much of this Act covers the establishment of a Condominium, but in 2010, RSA 356-B:70 was added which established a Committee to Study the Laws relating to Condominium and Homeowners’ Associations. The governance of associations has frequently been a problem area.
As a result of that Committee, the Condominium Act was amended and a number of new laws took effect on August 1, 2016. The changes target governance of the Association. Associations often operate informally and consult an attorney only when problems arise. The new laws are aimed at providing more structured governance and greater protection to unit owners once the condominium has been established.
As recently as August, 2017, a woman was accused of embezzling $100,000 from a NH condo association. She was arrested and charged with two counts of theft by unauthorized taking. This charge is a Class A felony and is punishable by a maximum sentence of 7 ½ to 15 years in prison. This is not a random thing, theft of a condominiums funds happens more often than you would think.
One of the major ways these thefts occur is by one of the board members receiving a kickback for work performed or by having personal work done for themselves and rolling it into the associations bill. With that in mind and in an effort to control this type of theft, one of the new laws requires any contractor licensed by the State of New Hampshire who performs work to disclose on the bill any referral fee paid by the contractor.
Some other key changes are:
• Boards may not use social meetings to evade the open meeting requirements
• Roberts Rules of Order Newly Revised are the default procedural rules
• The board must send proxy voting forms with control numbers assigned for each owner
• Electronic noticing and meetings are allowed
If you are a condominium owner don’t be afraid to ask questions of the board. Make sure that you regularly see the bank statements rather than to just rely on being shown a copy of the financials once a year at the annual meeting. If you do find that a board member has been embezzling, consider taking legal action, don’t just let it slide. Often, once they think they got away with something they will continue taking advantage of you in the future.