Public Offering Statement versus Declaration – Which Rules?

W.C. from New Haven County writes:

Dear Mister Condo,

The builder of our condominium published both a Public Offering Statement and a Declaration. The Builder transferred control to an owner board in March of 2003. These two documents have very similar text but there are differences. Which document controls our operation today? If they both are still relevant which controls in case of differences?

Mister Condo replies:

W.C., that is an excellent question! My instinct was to tell you that your Declaration would be the prevailing document but, as you know, I am not a lawyer. So I asked Attorney Adam Cohen of the Law Firm of Pullman & Comley, LLC headquartered in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Adam is the Chair of its Community Law Section. He represents and gives seminars to condominiums, tax districts, and other communities in matters ranging from revenue collection strategies to commercial disputes.  He is also the author of regular newsletters with circulations throughout Connecticut called Special District Update and Condominium Update. Here’s what Adam had to say:

Those two documents serve different purposes.  The Declaration is like a “constitution” filed at town hall to tell the world that the community exists and how it operates.  It establishes the community’s name, type, and boundaries, distinguishes common elements from individual units, and so on.   The Public Offering Statement is a consumer disclosure for the benefit of each unit’s first buyer.  It includes a copy of the declaration but also educates the purchaser about construction details, closing fees, and the warranties, financing, and services provided by the developer.  If an original unit owner has a dispute with the developer over a construction defect, term of sale, or the like, then the Public Offering Statement governs the relationship between the two of them.    But the Association itself and its Executive Board aren’t parties to the Public Offering Statement; only the developer and his direct customer are.  For subsequent owners, issues internal to the community, and almost everything else after the developer is out of the picture, the most recent version of the Declaration filed in the land records, along with the Bylaws and Rules, will control.

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