Year: 2015

May 5, 2015

On April 2, 2015, the New Hampshire Supreme Court issued an Opinion affirming a Judgment of the Hillsborough County Superior Court striking a developer’s unilateral attempt to extend condominium development rights beyond the statutory five year period. In New Hampshire, most condominium development rights are limited to a five year period (with one five year extension, which the developer exercised in this case while he still owned all the units). This means that the project [Read More...]

April 30, 2015

FHFA DOUBLES DOWN. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is doubling down on its position that loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are not subject to the “super lien” that gives condo associations priority status over a first mortgage in the collection of past due assessments owed by delinquent owners. Responding to a Nevada Supreme Court ruling upholding the right of HOAs to foreclose and extinguish a first mortgage loan in that process, [Read More...]

April 28, 2015

“My condo community is insured for full replacement value,” the board’s president announced confidently. “Our manager assures us,” he added, “that we have all coverage we need.” I hear these confident assertions often, and they make me shudder. Many condo associations have learned through painful experience that their full replacement policy may not fully cover a devastating loss. Some association managers and insurance agents have found themselves in serious legal and financial trouble for suggesting [Read More...]

April 16, 2015

GETTING OFF THE POT ENFORCEMENT FENCE. As more states move to legalize marijuana or consider those measures, federal law enforcement officials are feeling increasing pressure to get off the fence they have been straddling and either enforce federal laws prohibiting marijuana use or make the live-and-let-live approach the Justice Department has been pursuing an official government policy. Another middle-of-the-road option: Have Congress enact legislation eliminating the federal proscription against marijuana in states that have legalized [Read More...]

March 30, 2015

Most of us have never seen a winter like the one that (we hope) has finally ended. We’ve never seen this much snow, temperatures this cold sustained for this long, this many ice dams or this many leaking, sagging roofs. And the damage resulting from these “never seen” conditions is likely to achieve “never seen” status as well. You can measure misery in many ways. For us, it’s the number of calls we’ve gotten from [Read More...]

March 16, 2015

CONDO REVIVAL.   Don’t get too excited yet – or too far ahead of the data – but some industry analysts are beginning to report evidence of a condominium revival. “While nobody’s ready to condo like it’s 2005, in markets across the country, for-sale multifamily has a new appeal,” a recent article in Multifamily Executive News), an industry trade publication, observed. The article includes Boston – along with Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Chicago ―on [Read More...]

March 4, 2015

SNOW BUDGET SHORTFALLS, DAMN ICE DAMS AND INSURANCE CLAIMS Many condominium associations in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have major shortfalls due to the winter of 2015. Even condominiums without areas to plow incurred snow costs to shovel roofs and/or deal with ice dams. So, let’s assume, that your snow budget shortfall is $50,000.00. What options does a condominium association have to pay the contractors? Here are the options: 1. Snow Loans to Condominium [Read More...]

March 3, 2015

BROOKLINE BANK Wesley K. Blair 131 Clarendon Street P.O. Box 179179 Boston, MA 02117 wblair@brkl.com Tel: (617) 927-7974 AVIDIA BANK Howard B. Himmel 42 Main Street Hudson, MA 01749 h.himmel@avidiabank.com Tel: 978-567-3630 ROCKLAND TRUST COMPANY Timothy W. Murphy 120 Liberty Street Brockton, MA 02302 Timothy.Murphy@RocklandTrust.com Tel: 781-982-6629 NORTH SHORE BANK William J. Kell or Lisa Scopa 248 Andover Street Peabody, MA 01960 bkell@northshore-bank.com or lscopa@northshore-bank.com Tel: 978-538-7068 or 978-538-7082

March 3, 2015

Do the following: Try to shave the snow down to 2-3 inches on the roof instead of scraping the roof clean, which will risk damage to the shingles or other roof covering. \ Keep all ladders, shovels and roof rakes away from utility wires Shovel snow from flat roofs throwing snow over the side away from the building Remove large icicles carefully if they are hanging over doorways or walkways. Consider knocking down icicles accessing [Read More...]

March 2, 2015

Last Sunday’s balmy weather compounded the ongoing issue of ice dams for many of our clients and the risk of further damage remains. For this reason we are sending out this alert in an effort to help associations cope with the ongoing snow crisis that we are all struggling with. QUESTION: Do roofs have to be fully raked of snow and ice dams broken up before any damage occurs, and by whom? Answer: In almost [Read More...]

March 2, 2015

It might be possible to find an issue more prone to error and confusion than condominium insurance, but it wouldn’t be easy. Hundreds and probably thousands of treatises have been written on different aspects of this complicated topic, but like a fire that isn’t completely extinguished, the questions keep coming. New questions arise as old ones are answered; old questions are asked anew by successive generations of owners and board members confused by the same [Read More...]

February 27, 2015

FED POLICY: “PATIENCE”.  An interest rate hike is on the Fed’s radar screen, but it is still a relatively small blip, visible, but not imminent. Fed Chairman Janet Yellen conveyed that message in recent testimony before the House Banking Committee, telling lawmakers that while recent economic reports are encouraging, the Fed is in no hurry to alter its current low-rate course. “There has been important progress,” she said. “However, despite this improvement, too many Americans [Read More...]

February 22, 2015

The manager sitting across from me looked as if she had just walked 10 miles through a desert at mid-day without water. She might actually have enjoyed that exercise more than the one she had just endured – attending the monthly board meeting at a community association she managed. The scenario she described will be all-too recognizable to many managers and board members: The meetings rarely begin on time and often run past midnight. Discussions [Read More...]

February 16, 2015

DRONES TAKING FLIGHT.    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued proposed regulations governing drones, opening the door to some commercial uses (including those sought by real estate brokers) but leaving it closed, for now to the air-borne delivery services that Google, Amazon (and probably pizza franchises, as well) would like to launch. The proposed rules would not require drone operators to obtain pilots’ licenses, as some had feared, but would require them to pass [Read More...]

February 11, 2015

On Saturday, July 17, 2015, Elevated, Rhode Island’s first medical marijuana vapor lounge, opened for business. It was a modest opening, with a little more than a dozen customers and potential members dropping by in its first day. Located in a small storefront on Peck Street, Elevated combines two things — medical marijuana and vaping — that have become prominent in recent years. Vaporizing drugs — either tobacco or marijuana — instead of burning them [Read More...]

February 11, 2015

Just in case you haven’t noticed, it’s been snowing lately – a lot. And with snow comes slippery conditions, and with slippery conditions comes that nine letter word that strikes fear in the hearts of all property owners – “liability.” Which is why it is absolutely essential for associations and communities to adopt snow and ice policies which clearly (and correctly) establish the duty and responsibility for snow and ice treatment between those that unit [Read More...]

February 11, 2015

On his last day in office, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick signed into law Senate Bill 865. This set in motion a process by which the Massachusetts Parental Leave Act (“MPLA”) will replace the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (“MMLA”) effective on April 7, 2015. Most significantly, the new MPLA will expand the categories of workers entitled to parental leave. It also will modify certain notification provisions to the benefit of employees and include one new [Read More...]

February 2, 2015

FORECLOSING TIMES. Foreclosure rates are declining nationally but foreclosure times aren’t, at least not much. It took an average of 604 days to process foreclosures in the fourth quarter, down only slightly from the record high of 615 days in the third quarter. Fourth quarter foreclosures were up 10 percent from the year-ago pace. That’s according to RealtyTrac’s Foreclosure Market Report, which found that lenders foreclosed on approximately 327,000 properties last year, nearly 30 percent [Read More...]

January 28, 2015

You’d think a condominium law that has been in place for nearly two decades and is working well by all accounts would be reasonably secure. But apparently not. The condominium superlien, widely credited with helping condominium associations navigate several economic downturns, including the most recent one, with minimal economic damage, is being questioned by lenders, weakened by courts and attacked by federal regulators, forcing industry executives to fight again battles they thought they had long [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

Two years ago, Northeast Housing Court Judge David Kerman issued a ruling that an owner of a mixed used building was “strictly liable” for an intoxicated tenant’s fall through a defective porch guardrail in the case of Sheehan v. Weaver. The building contained three residential apartments located above a commercial establishment. None of the apartments were owner-occupied. After a night of drinking, one of the tenants fell through a porch guardrail suffering serious injuries. The connection of [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

The Supreme Judicial Court has issued a landmark decision that has effectively carved out an exception to the “economic loss rule” for condominium associations seeking to recover for defective construction and design.  In Wyman v. Ayer Properties, LLC, a case handled by Tom Moriarty and Dave Rogers of this office, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed the Superior Court’s dismissal of a condominium association’s claims associated with negligently constructed masonry – finding that the association could [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

Senate Bill 1987 Passes Legislature at Midnight Hour Senate Bill 1987, sponsored by Shrewsbury State Senator Michael Moore and the Massachusetts Land Title Association, would render clear and marketable to any title affected by a defective foreclosure arising out of the U.S. Bank v. Ibanez ruling. Estimates are that hundreds of innocent homeowners are affected by paperwork errors by foreclosure lenders, rending them unable to sell or refinance their homes.  The issue created by the [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

In the first of what should be many cases dealing with marijuana use in rental housing, the SJC ruled recently that a Section 8 tenant could be evicted for the possession of under one ounce of marijuana combined with allowing her live-in boyfriend to deal marijuana and possess a gun at the leased premises. The court overruled Boston Housing Court Justice Jeffrey Winik’s prior decision preventing the eviction of the tenant. Judge Winik was unconvinced that [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

The new law will be codified at Massachusetts General Law Chapter 149, Section 29F. Every contractor should be aware of this new law.  Condominiums with large projects and property managers managing large projects should be aware of this new law as well. The new law takes effect on November 6, 2014 and applies to construction contracts signed after that date on private construction contracts where original value of the prime contract is at least $3,000,000.  It [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

An Orange County jury found a homeowners association negligent for failing to resolve a secondhand smoke dispute between neighbors at a Trabuco Canyon condominium.  Trends usually move west to east so New England condominiums and HOAs should be concerned and pro-active. After a five-week trial, Superior Court jurors last week awarded a family more than $15,000, finding the condo association and management failed to ensure the non-smoking family’s right to the “quiet enjoyment” of their own [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

Over the past twenty years or so, Massachusetts condominiums were able to collect six months of unpaid condominium fees and attorney’s fees.  In addition, they were able to collect on-going condominium fees by filing a second or third lien action, etc.  Unfortunately, on Friday, November 7, 2014 the Appeal’s Court decided that Condominium Associations are only allowed to have one priority lien at a time. Condominium Associations must now be aware that they may not [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) recently issued another decision affecting the foreclosure of mortgages in Massachusetts. In Easthampton Savings Bank v. City of Springfield, No. 11612, slip op. (Mass. Dec. 19, 2014), the SJC struck down two mortgage ordinances adopted by the City of Springfield (“City”) in 2011, holding that both ordinances are preempted by existing state laws. The ordinances deal with the foreclosure process and were adopted in response to a wave of [Read More...]

January 22, 2015

As one of his last acts in office, Governor Patrick signed into law a bill that adds a new section to the Massachusetts Condominium Act that will make it easier for associations to obtain mortgagee consents when amending condominium documents.  The bill, which was proposed by Community Associations Institute Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee, chaired by MEEB’s Matthew W. Gaines, will greatly benefit many condominium associations in Massachusetts that for years have been faced with an [Read More...]

January 14, 2015

OFF TO A GOOD START.  The year began with a strong jolt of positive news: Employers added 252,000 jobs in December, beating estimates, and the unemployment rate declined to 5.6 percent, its lowest level since June, 2008. But wages declined for the first time in more than a year and the labor participation rate slumped, as well, casting a “yes-but” shadow over the otherwise encouraging report, and leading some analysts to predict that the Federal [Read More...]

January 5, 2015

The holidays are past; the ubiquitous holiday music has (mercifully) been silenced; and community associations that had been arguing with owners about the holiday decorations they were displaying, or wanted to display, are now arguing about when the decorations should be removed. Arguments about holiday displays are perennial. And while the arguments themselves (over inflatable Santas, sparkling lights, towering trees and multi-colored candles) may seem trivial, the issues they raise are anything but. When these [Read More...]