Year: 2010

December 20, 2010

MEEB attorneys Edmund Allcock, co-chair of the CAI RI Legislation Action Committee, and Janet Oulousian Aronson have followed up last year’s success in passing ground breaking super-lien legislation in Rhode Island by proposing House Bill 5906, which was sponsored by Representative Patricia Serpa (D) of West Warwick, RI.  House Bill 5906 would require unincorporated condominium associations to record the names and contact information for members of the board at least annually, and more often if [Read More...]

December 13, 2010

The Justice Department recently announced that it settled a lawsuit against a North Shore, Massachusetts Condominium Association over allegations they regularly discriminated against residents with children. According to the DOJ, the condominium complex was fining families $500 when their children violated condo rules by playing tag or wiffle ball games in outdoor common areas while residents without kids were fined only $10 for similar rules infractions. The DOJ also said the Condominium Association retaliated against [Read More...]

December 13, 2010

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced extension of condominium project approvals with an expiration date of December 7, 2010 and urges all condominium communities wishing to retain FHA approval to complete the recertification process. Provided below are the extension dates based on five-year time frames with the exception of those condominium projects with original approval dates from 1972 -1985. Initial Project Approval Dates Current Expiration Date New Expiration Date  1972 – 1980 December 7, 2010 [Read More...]

December 11, 2010

Pet owners will no longer be able to claim that cats, chimpanzees, snakes, gerbils and most other critters are “service animals” that must be allowed to accompany them in public places (shopping malls, grocery stores, theaters, restaurants, and the like) from which animals are otherwise barred. That is one result – probably the most significant one – of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ’s) newly revised regulations governing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Among other changes, the [Read More...]

December 7, 2010

Park Terrace Condominium is a five story residential building containing 120 Units, 80 of which have balconies. The Master Deed states that the balcony adjacent to any Unit is part of the Unit and not part of the common areas. Additionally, the Master Deed described common areas and facilities as “All portions of the Buildings not included in any Unit … including … [t]he foundations, structural members, beams, supports, exterior walls… structural walls and their [Read More...]

November 21, 2010

Ask an audience of community association board members if their communities are “fully insured,” and you will almost certainly receive a unanimous and confident show of hands. Ask if they have reviewed their insurance policies in recent memory, or have ever read them at all, and the hands will begin to waiver. If participants are honest, the show of hands should all but disappear. That’s not surprising. Insurance is complicated, dry, and unlikely to be [Read More...]

November 21, 2010

To disclose or not to disclose. That is the complicated and often murky question confronting community associations in their dealings with both current community residents and prospective buyers who are considering purchasing dwellings in the community. Current owners, as members of the community association, are entitled to know almost everything about its finances, its management, and its problems. There are some exceptions, of course. Privacy concerns dictate that boards should not publish the names of [Read More...]

November 16, 2010

If homeowner associations are feeling a little like the moles in ‘whack-a-mole,’ it’s not hard to understand why.  Every time they look up, it seems, condominiums are being ‘whacked’ by federal regulations, which, though aimed at correcting problems in the financial and housing markets, are exacerbating existing problems or creating new ones in common interest ownership communities.  The latest example:  The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has proposed a rule that would prohibit Fannie Mae, [Read More...]

November 1, 2010

On July 23, 2010, United States Attorney General Eric Holder signed final regulations revising the Department’s ADA regulations, including its ADA Standards for Accessible Design. The revised regulations will amend the Department’s Title II regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 35, and the Title III regulation, 28 C.F.R. Part 36. Appendix A to each regulation includes a section by section analysis of the rule and responses to public comments on the proposed rule. Appendix B to the [Read More...]

November 1, 2010

A comprehensive reform of the Criminal Offender Records Information Statute which limits what information an employer may seek on a job applications went into effect this month.  Effective November 4, 2010, employers may no longer request criminal offender record information on the initial written employment application except, however, an employer may inquire about any criminal convictions on an applicant’s application if: (i) the applicant is applying for a position for which any federal or state [Read More...]

November 1, 2010

I have become something of an expert on bed bugs.  This was by no means a career ambition; I did not grow up wanting to know everything there was to know about bed bugs and would be happily ignorant about them today.  But they have become a major problem for the owners and managers of residential and commercial properties, and the problem is worldwide. “We are on the threshold of a bed bug pandemic,” the [Read More...]

October 15, 2010

On October 7, 2010, Judge Trombly of the Massachusetts Land Court issued a much anticipated decision in a case involving the interplay between setting of percentage interest under the Condominium Act and affordable housing. In this case, certain owners, who had affordable restrictions on their units because they bought into the condominium via a Boston Redevelopment Authority Affordable Housing Program in 1988, sued the condominium board and all of the other unit owners, nearly 20 [Read More...]

October 1, 2010

On September 24, 2010, the Norfolk Superior Court ruled in three separate (but consolidated) cases brought by three separate contractors against a condominium trust, that mechanics liens imposed by contractors are inapplicable in the condominium context and cannot be utilized to attach common areas and/or secure contractor claims for non-payment. The case involved 3 subcontractors who were not paid by a general contractor hired by the condominium trust to perform work at a condominium. The [Read More...]

September 23, 2010

Community association boards and managers spend a lot of time worrying about legal liability, and with good reason. Multi-million-dollar awards to residents who sue their associations for failing to provide adequate security are hard to ignore.  So are statistics such as these:   The cost of settling a negligent security claim averages between $500,000 and $600,000, according to some industry estimates; the average jury award to plaintiffs who allege security breaches by property owners is more than [Read More...]

September 1, 2010

On August 5, 2010, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law “An Act Relative to Economic Development Reorganization” (M.G.L. c.240, §1, et. seq.) with a stated purpose of providing a business friendly environment, stimulating job growth, and coordinating economic development activities funded by the Commonwealth. Buried within the act is a significant amendment to the Massachusetts Personnel Records Statue (M.G.L. c.149, §52C). The new law (Chapter 240 of the Acts of 2010, Section 148) implements a [Read More...]

September 1, 2010

Small claims procedure in Massachusetts Courts provides anyone with the opportunity to start an action simply by printing a concise written statement of their claim, and filing it with the district or housing court clerk. The clerk then sends out a certified letter to the Defendant, notifying them of the date (typically 2-4 months from the date of filing) on which the claim will be heard in an informal proceeding, typically before a clerk magistrate. [Read More...]

August 23, 2010

Massachusetts’ somewhat idiosyncratic slip-and-fall liability defense appears to be melting.  Property owners in Massachusetts, as in other jurisdictions, have a duty of “reasonable care,” requiring them to keep common areas free of defective conditions.  But unlike their counterparts in most other states, Massachusetts courts recognize a distinction between “natural” and “unnatural” accumulations of snow, the former resulting from the falling and freezing of snow, the latter from something an owner did in response.  Under this [Read More...]

August 20, 2010

Most condominium associations enter into a variety of agreements with different vendors and suppliers to provide essential services, such as laundry room facilities, snow-plowing, and landscape maintenance, to condominium residents. Boards often sign these agreements without paying much attention to the legal terms governing the relationships, but imagine the following scenario: Your association’s five-year contract with its laundry room vendor is ending (and not a moment too soon as far as most board members are [Read More...]

August 1, 2010

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court drastically changed premises liability law in the Commonwealth with the issuance of its July 26, 2010 decision in the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corporation. The Papadopoulous decision abolishes the long standing law in Massachusetts that landowners are not liable for injuries on their premises caused by natural accumulations of snow and ice. By abolishing the natural accumulation defense, the Supreme Judicial Court has, in essence, made property owners guarantors [Read More...]

July 1, 2010

Life is full of transitions, but the transition from developer to owner control of a community association undoubtedly ranks among the most challenging and (for novice board members) potentially overwhelming on that list.  More often than not, the developer delivers a huge box, or several huge boxes, crammed with official looking documents, miscellaneous papers and sometimes scraps of paper, invoices, reports and spare change (if you’re lucky) – arranged in no discernible order and identified [Read More...]

July 1, 2010

Today Governor Patrick signed into law a bill that amends section 5 of the Massachusetts Condominium Act.  The bill, which was proposed by the Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) and was supported by the CAI Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee, amends the manner in which percentage interests can legally be established for condominiums containing affordable units.  MEEB’s Stephen Marcus worked with CHAPA to refine the legislation over the last three years, while MEEB’s Tom Moriarty [Read More...]

July 1, 2010

In welcome news for REBA members and lawyers across Massachusetts, the First Circuit yesterday reversed the US District Court’s decision against REBA, setting aside a $1M award of fees and certifying the case to the SJC to determine whether NREIS is engaged in the illegal practice of law. “We are pleased that the Court recognized some of the flaws and inconsistencies in the lower court’s reasoning,” said REBA President and MEEB’s own Tom Moriarty. “We [Read More...]

June 1, 2010

A recent unpublished Appeals Court decision demonstrates the need for association’s to take reasonable steps to remedy known defects that create potentially hazardous conditions on the premises. In the matter of Molloy v. Board of Directors of Laurel Green, the plaintiff sustained a compression fracture of her spine due to a fall on an outside staircase in late October 2001. The plaintiff claimed that on the morning of her fall the exterior stairs were icy [Read More...]

June 1, 2010

Not the greatest punch line, but it provides owners, proprietors, managers, superintendants, and agents of any building (our clients) with some valuable insight on potential liability if they fail to accommodate a US census employee. Pursuant to Article 1, Section 2 of the US Constitution, Congress is empowered to carry out the census “in such Manner as [Congress] shall by Law direct”. Throw in the “necessary and proper clause”, and the founding fathers have effectively [Read More...]

June 1, 2010

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion on May 14, 2010, affecting the ability of developers and Condominium Board’s to waive certain provisions of the Massachusetts Condominium Act, Chapter 183A. In the case of Scully v. Tillery, the SJC held that the developer may waive the provisions of c. 183A, provided that the organization of unit owners agreed to such waiver, and that subsequent owners have record notice of the waiver provisions. At issue [Read More...]

May 19, 2010

In a case of first impression, the United States District Court for Minnesota has held that a property management company is not subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In Alexander v. Omega Management, Inc., a delinquent unit owner filed an action against the condominium’s management company for allegedly failing to comply with the provisions of FDCPA. This Act requires “debt collectors” to provide certain statutory warnings and rights to debtors when they [Read More...]

May 1, 2010

The Massachusetts House of Representatives recently passed legislation that will allow municipalities to provide loans to owners of privately held property to finance energy conservation and renewable energy projects. The legislation included specific provisions to ensure that condominium associations will also be eligible for these loans. The language was included as part of a broader municipal relief bill, and it is likely that the Senate will pass this measure in the coming weeks. If a [Read More...]

May 1, 2010

Although there seems to be no shortage of talking heads touting signs of the beginning of the end of the economic decline, associations, like the average consumer, are still struggling to do more with less, as they look for ways to cut costs, while still providing needed services to their communities. It just so happens that service providers, like the mall retailers, are advertising some bargain basement prices. Unfortunately, because of the use of unfavorable [Read More...]

May 1, 2010

In an unreported Trial Court Decision, a New Hampshire Superior Court Judge refused to require a condominium board to remove a jersey barrier it had placed on a unit owner’s driveway, which in turn prevented him not just from using his driveway, but also his garage. The condominium board, fed up with the unit owner’s refusal to pay his monthly common expenses for over two years placed a jersey barrier in front of the unit [Read More...]

April 1, 2010

Most community association boards think of fraud – if they think about it at all   — as something that happens to other communities, but not to theirs. In fact, reports of fraud-related losses affecting New England condominiums have been rare.  It’s certainly been a long time since we’ve seen anything close to the recent New York case, in which a manager systematically stole $1.3 million from six cooperatives by pocketing the funds allocated for their [Read More...]