Year: 2013

June 17, 2013

Ed is a partner in the firm and is the head of the Firm’s Litigation Department. He is a Condominium Lawyer licensed to practice in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Ed has blended his extensive knowledge of condominium law into an active multistate condominium litigation practice. In addition to conducting numerous trials on behalf of condominium associations, Ed has the unique distinction of having appeared on condominium related matters in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and [Read More...]

December 30, 2013

GOING UP. This won’t come as a surprise to most condominium owners, but maintenance costs have been rising steadily. They increased 3 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year and are 25 percent higher than they were a decade ago. That’s according to data compiled by the Institute of Real Estate Management, which estimated the average cost of maintaining a single condominium unit at more than $2,400 per year. GOING DOWN. Foreclosure rates have [Read More...]

December 17, 2013

RECOVERY MODE. Home owners are recovering equity at the fastest pace on record, erasing the negative equity that has prevented many from selling their existing homes and purchasing another. But they are missing more payments on home equity lines of credit – a disturbing trend. COSTLY RULES. Standard & Poor’s is predicting: a)That the new mortgage rules set to take effect in January will increase mortgage origination costs for lenders; and b) that lenders will [Read More...]

December 9, 2013

Massachusetts condominium associations that are just beginning to grapple with the challenges created by the state law legalizing the use of medical marijuana, will soon find themselves confronting the equally complicated problems created by e-cigarettes. Like the new state law, which will no doubt increase the number of people smoking marijuana, e-cigarettes will force associations to rethink the policies they have or may need to govern smoking in their communities. Introduced about 10 years ago, [Read More...]

December 3, 2013

NO WORRIES.  Painful resets of adjustable rate mortgages forced thousands of homeowners into default during the housing downturn. But Lender Processing Services sees no risk that scenario will be repeated in the current cycle. The company’s self-described “in depth analysis” found that 63 percent of hybrid ARMs have already reset and three-quarters of the remaining 37 percent were originated after the downturn, under tighter underwriting standards. Most borrowers with ARMs originated during the bubble years [Read More...]

November 20, 2013

NO FRACKING. Homeowners considering selling the mineral rights on their the damage caused by “fracking” (a technique for removing natural gas from underground rock) has led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to re-emphasize policies prohibiting mortgages on any property that contains hazardous materials – specifically including oil and gas. The GSEs also have the right to exercise the “due-on-sale” clause, requiring immediate payment of the outstanding mortgage balance, if they discover violations of this policy. [Read More...]

November 20, 2013

“And then the one day you find Ten years have got behind you No one told you when to run You missed the starting gun.” That line, from Pink Floyd’s classic album The Dark Side of the Moon, has particular meaning for condominium associations contemplating construction defect litigation and similar claims, because for these and other tort claims (essentially negligence and other claims which do not arise from or relate to a contract or a [Read More...]

October 31, 2013

TAXING DISTINCTIONS. The IRS has adopted new regulations outlining the tax treatment of real estate improvements and “repairs” for business and rental properties. Although the regs answer many long-standing questions about the distinction between repairs and improvements, the answers may not be entirely welcome. The bottom line appears to be: More expenses will be classified as improvements, which must be depreciated, rather than as repairs, which can be deducted. IMAGE PROBLEM. Congress ranked below witches, [Read More...]

October 15, 2013

DOWNER. A prolonged Congressional stalemate that keeps government offices closed could stall home sales and derail the housing recovery, analysts have warned….Consumers weren’t exactly turning handsprings before the government shutdown, but the standoff in Washington has reduced their assessment of the economy to the lowest level in more than a year. ENERGY INCENTIVES. Commercial real estate trade groups are urging Congress to extend the Sec.179d tax incentive for energy-efficiency upgrades to commercial buildings. That incentive [Read More...]

September 30, 2013

LOOKING UP.  The condominium conversion market is beginning to show signs of life. Developers who completed apartment projects a year or two ago are positioned ideally to capitalize on the growing demand for condominium units, analysts say. EXTREMELY UNPREPARED.  Insurers are well-prepared to handle extreme weather events as they occur, but not nearly as well-positioned to cope with the ongoing “base-line” challenges created by climate change, a report by Ceres, a nonprofit advocate for environmental [Read More...]

September 24, 2013

A recent Decision out of the Maine Supreme Court illustrates that condominium smoking bans continue to be a legal hot topic.  In 2010, the Sunspray Condominium Association adopted a condominium wide smoking ban, banning smoking in the entirety of the condominium property, including within units.  Presumably this was done by a Declaration Amendment, however the Court record is unclear on this point.  As an aside, MEEB recommends that if a smoking ban extends within units, [Read More...]

September 24, 2013

Recently someone raised the question: “Is anyone aware of any statutory law or case law that would prevent a member of a condominium from having his/her vote count on a vote for a declaration amendment when they were in bankruptcy proceedings if the governing documents are silent on the issue?” While there are no reported cases, the answer may depend on the type of bankruptcy. In a Chapter 13, the owner most likely retains the [Read More...]

September 17, 2013

EQUAL TREATMENT. Congress is considering and likely to pass legislation that would require FEMA to provide the same coverage for condominiums and co-operatives it offers to owners of single-family detached homes. Under current FEMA rules, condominiums and co-ops that suffer storm damage are eligible for loans, but not for grants, because they are defined as “business associations” and not as residences.   TAKE THAT! The Federal Housing Finance Association, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie [Read More...]

September 17, 2013

Dealing with the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA’s) condominium certification requirements has been a little like coping with young children:  Just when you think you’ve gotten a handle on one phase, your kids begin to go through another one. With the FHA, whenever condominium association boards and industry professionals overcome one obstacle in the FHA certification process, it seems, agency staffers identify another issue, creating another certification problem that has to be resolved. The most recent [Read More...]

September 2, 2013

COVER UP. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are disguising billions of dollars in losses, delaying a day of financial reckoning that the Inspector General for the Federal Housing Finance Agency says they should confront now. NOT MAKING IT EASY. Speaking (more positively) of the GSEs, Fannie and Freddie both reported their seventh consecutive profitable quarters, posting second quarter gains of $10.1 billion and $5 billion, respectively. Fannie will pay another $10.2 billion in dividends to [Read More...]

August 19, 2013

The term “associational discrimination,” in the context of an employment discrimination claim, refers to a claim that a plaintiff, although not a member of a protected class himself or herself, is the victim of discrimination animus directed toward a third person who is a member of the protected class and with whom the plaintiff associates. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“S.J.C.”) has, in a narrowly tailored decision, expanded the reach of the state’s anti-discrimination statute, [Read More...]

August 19, 2013

By Edmund A. Allcock Developers and their attorneys across the state are ecstatic about a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that reduces the amount of concessions and conditions municipalities can extract in granting permits. A 5-4 majority in Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District held that the U.S. Constitution’s takings clause not only applies to cases in which a project is approved with “extortionate” conditions, but also to those denied when a developer refuses [Read More...]

August 12, 2013

SHAKING IT UP. President Obama is proposing the equivalent of a neutron bomb strategy for revamping the housing finance system ─ eliminate Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac but leave in place (with some federal support) the 30-year mortgage the quasi-governmental entities have made possible. RIGHTING A WRONG. Lawmakers from New York and New Jersey are sponsoring legislation that would alter a long-standing FEMA policy that denies flood insurance coverage to condominiums and cooperatives because they [Read More...]

July 29, 2013

GSE REFORM. The bipartisan proposal Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) have crafted for reforming the mortgage finance market continues to win plaudits from fellow lawmakers, regulators and industry executive. A separate proposal that Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, has introduced in that body, is also attracting attention, much of it negative, from housing industry executives and consumers. Notwithstanding the upcoming debate, which is likely to be [Read More...]

July 29, 2013

The lyrics of a 1970’s song insultingly declared, “Short people got no reason to live.” The same has been said, although usually somewhat more diplomatically, about small condominiums. Think about all the positive terms used to describe large organizations: “Strength in numbers” “Leverage” “Economies of Scale” “Broad-based” All apply to large and mid-sized condominium communities; none apply to small ones (for purposes of this article, those with five units or less). There are plenty of [Read More...]