Rhode Island HOA Laws

Rhode Island HOA Laws

Last Updated: June 14, 2023 by Corrin Swintosky

Many planned communities are managed by a homeowners association (HOA) in Rhode Island. The laws governing HOAs in Rhode Island are established by various local, state, and federal regulations, in addition to each HOA’s governing documents.

Who Regulates HOAs in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, HOAs are regulated by the Rhode Island Condominium Law found in Title 34 Chapter 36 of the Rhode Island General Assembly Laws. This law applies to all real estate where every unit owner holds an interest in the common areas and has private ownership of a portion of the property.

While every HOA has its own individualized structure, their governing documents usually include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Conditions and Restrictions, Declaration of Covenants, and other rules.

HOAs in Rhode Island may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:

HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:

How to Find HOA Regulations in Rhode Island

Documents filed from an HOA are public records in Rhode Island. For the documents to be enforced, they must be recorded with the land evidence records in the town or city where the HOA is located. The documents can be found by visiting the local town or city clerk’s office.

Depending on where the HOA is located, some towns or cities have records available online using the Rhode Island Land Evidence Records website. Records available include building structure and development items.

Alternatively, certain records can also be found online using the Rhode Island Department of State website to conduct a business search. Business records include articles of incorporation and annual reports disclosed to the Rhode Island Department of State.

HOA Powers in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, an HOA has the power to:

  • Collect payments for common expenses
  • Regulate common areas
  • Collect charges to maintain and operate the common areas
  • Levy reasonable fines
  • Foreclose on a house for unpaid liens

Moreover, an HOA’s governing documents can grant added powers such as restrictions on membership, parking, fencing, and exterior paint colors.

Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Rhode Island?

An HOA can impose fines on a homeowner in Rhode Island for late payment of assessments and violating its rules. The HOA adds an interest rate to any past-due common expense assessment which cannot exceed 21%.

For any violation of the HOA’s rules and regulations, HOAs are required to provide notice to the homeowner and an opportunity for a hearing before fines can be imposed and enforced. Imposed fines are capped at a daily amount and total amount over time.

Homeowners can be charged a maximum of $100 per day for residential condos or a maximum of $500 per day for commercial condos. The total fine amount imposed on a homeowner cannot exceed $500 for residential condos or $1,000 for commercial condos.

An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:

  • Installing satellite dishes and antennas
  • Installing solar energy panels
  • Displaying the American flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law

An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable rules and regulations regarding the placement, manner, and display of the satellite dishes and antennas, solar panels, and American flag.

Can an HOA Take a Homeowner’s House in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, an HOA can foreclose on a home within its community. This process includes an HOA placing a lien on a property when the owner neglects to pay their dues. If a lien goes unresolved, the HOA can foreclose on the house.

Evicting homeowners is not in the power of the HOA. However, if the homeowner is leasing a tenant, the HOA may be able to evict the tenant. For example, an HOA may be able to evict a tenant if the lease was not properly authorized by the HOA.

In addition, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions regarding rental properties in its governing documents.

Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, an HOA can enter a homeowner’s property as reasonably necessary to maintain units, common elements, or shared utilities.

Units are private spaces only intended for the property owner’s use but have certain spaces that require maintenance by the HOA, such as balconies. Common elements are the shared spaces around the units owned by the HOA, such as elevators. Shared utilities may include water or trash removal directly provided by the HOA.

Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must generally give prior notice before entering the property. Usually, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but the timeline of the notice is ultimately determined by the governing documents.

Where Do Homeowners File Complaints Against Their HOA in Rhode Island?

Where to file a complaint against an HOA in Rhode Island depends on the type of complaint.

For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state or federal court within one year of the violation date.

For complaints of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in Rhode Island state or federal court.

Alternatively, a homeowner with any other complaints can bring a claim to state court in the appropriate city or town.

Joining and Leaving an HOA in Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, if a person buys a home in an area with a preexisting HOA, they are required to join and abide by the HOA rules. At closing, the homeowner’s realtor should present them with documents explaining the HOA and its rules.

If a person bought a house in an area where an HOA is present, they cannot leave or opt-out of the HOA. To depart from an HOA, the homeowner can sell their house or petition the HOA to have their home removed from the association.

However, there is no guarantee the petition will be granted.

How to Dissolve an HOA in Rhode Island

The process for dissolution of an HOA in Rhode Island may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If not listed, a majority vote by members of the HOA at a meeting is required to move forward with the dissolution.

An HOA can only be dissolved by an agreement of at least 80% of unit homeowners. If approved, the agreeing members will sign a termination agreement, settle any debts, and dispose of assets belonging to the HOA. Necessary documentation, such as Articles of Dissolution, need to be filed with the Rhode Island Secretary of State and recorded in every area where the HOA holds property to complete the dissolution.