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Questions Real Estate Attorneys are Frequently Asked an Interview with Sanford Roberts of Sanford Roberts, PA Law Firm

By Sanford Roberts

Tell us a little about yourself and your company and what real estate transactions do you typically oversee?

Sanford Roberts is a sole practitioner and was formerly shareholder in the firm of Shaheen & Gordon. He concentrates his practice in association representation and litigation, business litigation and real estate. He has been practicing law in southeastern New Hampshire and southern Maine for more than 30 years, advising and representing condominium and homeowner associations, individual owners and property managers.

Mr. Roberts is a member of the New and Maine Bar Associations. He has served as a panel member for the Community Association Institute's almost free legal advice seminars and has written articles for their magazine, Common Ground and has been a panel member for the Hampshire Bar Association's, Lorman Seminars' and the National Business Institute's condominium law continuing legal education seminars for lawyers.

Mr. Roberts earned his B.A. degree from the University of Pennsylvania, his law degree from Temple University in Philadelphia and has a masters degree from Dartmouth College Medical School.

What, advice do you give to condominium associations and/or owners routinely

The three "Cs":

  • Clarity: If three owners cannot read a section of the condominium declaration and bylaws and agree upon what it means, it needs to be rewritten.
  • Consistency: The provisions of an association's governing documents (declaration, bylaws and rules) must be applied in the same manner for all owners and must be enforced on a regular and consistent basis
  • Consequences: If an owner or tenant does not conform to the document provisions, there must be provisions in the bylaws for penalties and those penalties need to be significant and should be imposed after reasonable notice to cure the violation. The purpose of having penalties is not to collect money or punish violations but rather to encourage compliance.

Do not wait before taking action when a condominium owner is delinquent in payment. The longer it takes to compel payment the less likely it is the association will in fact get paid.

Owners who have problems with boards need to understand that absent a clear abuse of power or intentional violation of the statutory provisions or governing documents decisions of board will be upheld by a court. The best way to deal with boards that are not responsive or not prudently managing a condominium is to get sufficient votes to put others in their place.

Board members must comply with the condominium documents in their decisions, just as owners must comply. Boards cannot interpret governing documents in a manner that violates the language or the intent of the provisions or in a manner that favors particular owners or discriminates against particular owners.

What is your best piece of advice for people considering purchasing a condominium ?

My best advice to anyone considering buying a condominium is to talk to as many owners as you can before you buy, review the current financial records of the association, read the governing documents as tedious as that might be, and find a lawyer who has some experience or expertise with condominiums to advise them. Also, do not accept representations of significant issue from the property management company or the realtors; if something is important to purchaser, confirm its validity with your lawyer or check it for yourself if it is not a legal matter.

What's the best way to contact your business?

Sanford Roberts, PA

117 Bow Street, Box 4608

Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03802

(603) 431-0992; 431-0993 - direct

(603) 431-1915 - Fax

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