Year: 2017

October 28, 2017

BIG NEWS It is difficult to remember a time when condominiums weren’t part of the housing landscape. It is also unlikely that many early advocates of this ownership option envisioned just how large a space it would occupy. More than 20 percent of the U.S. population now resides in a common interest ownership community. That translates into 67.8 billion people living in approximately 345,000 condominium communities – compared with about 2.1 million residents in 10,000 [Read More...]

October 23, 2017

CHINK IN MORTGAGE INTEREST ARMOR Reversing a long-standing policy and diverging notably from other housing industry trade groups, the National Association of Home Builders announced recently that it would not oppose eliminating the tax deduction for mortgage interest payments as part of a broad reform of the tax code, as long as the plan includes a tax credit for homeownership. “Now our policy is much more flexible,” NAHB President Jerry Howard, told Reuters. President of [Read More...]

October 7, 2017

BAFFLED BUT UNDETERRED Although Fed Chair Janet Yellen admits that policy makers are baffled by persistently low inflation, they are undeterred by the failure to meet the 2 percent target they have set as the indicator that higher interest rates are in order, and still on track to boost interest rates once more this year. They remain convinced that the declining unemployment rate – now near a 16-year low – will begin to stoke inflation [Read More...]

October 7, 2017

Most people think about disasters as something that happens to others, not to them. But after witnessing back-to-back weather catastrophes in Houston, Florida, the Caribbean, and more recently in Puerto Rico, many condominium associations are recognizing that the unthinkable could, in fact, happen to their communities, and considering what they should do to prepare for that possibility. Disaster planning and disaster recovery are huge topics about which others have written entire books. Since I don’t [Read More...]

September 24, 2017

TIME TO WORRY? The housing market weakened in July as the chronic inventory shortage worsened and the rising prices it has triggered undercut buyer demand. New home sales declined by 9.4 percent to an annualized pace of 571,000 units – almost 9 percent below the year-ago rate and the slowest annual pace in three years. “It has been surprising the extent to which new home sales have not picked up more,” Aaron Terrazas, a senior [Read More...]

September 8, 2017

Under the Volunteer Protection Action Act (42 U.S.C. §14501) (hereinafter the “Act”), volunteers of a non-profit organization or a governmental agency have immunity, meaning they are generally protected, from negligence claims, if they are acting within the scope of their responsibilities in the organization/agency and they are properly licensed and/or certified (to the extent required) and authorized to act. Under the Act, volunteers are not protected if the harm and/or injury occurred through the operation [Read More...]

September 5, 2017

FAMILIAR BUT NOT THE SAME Home equity loans and “cash-out’ mortgage refinances – two enduring symbols of the excesses that triggered the financial meltdown a decade ago – are becoming popular again. But industry experts insist that they are a sign of economic health, not a harbinger of another economic disaster. Lenders approved nearly $46 billion in new home equity lines of credit in the second quarter – the highest level since 2008, according to [Read More...]

August 25, 2017

Representing condominium associations in three different states can be daunting.  MA, RI and NH have three very different condominium acts.  This document compares and contrasts the differences in the developer related provisions in the 3 acts. This comparison chart refers to pure statutory provisions themselves and does not include case law interpreting the same, I will leave that for another day. I hope you will find this reference chart helpful. Differing Statutory Levels of Developer [Read More...]

August 24, 2017

By Mark Einhorn The short-term rental of residential property is producing long-term concerns. Those concerns, which were just emerging when I wrote about this issue three years ago, have grown exponentially as short-term vacation rentals have ballooned, creating what is now a $34 billion business and triggering an avalanche of conflicts and complaints to which the governing boards of condominiums, municipal officials, and lawmakers are all beginning to respond. At the federal level, a group [Read More...]

August 14, 2017

LABOR MARKET REPORT SIZZLES To a summer that has been sizzling in many parts of the country, the Department of Labor’s July employment report delivered some additional heat. Employers added 209,000 workers to their payrolls, beating the consensus estimate and indicating that the nine-year-old economic recovery still has legs under it. Revisions added 2,000 jobs to the May and June totals, the unemployment rate dipped a little and average hourly earnings – a source of [Read More...]

August 1, 2017

COMING SOON BUT NOT YET The Federal Reserve has implemented two consecutive interest rate increases (in March and June) and is planning to boost rates at least once more before year-end – but not quite yet. Citing “realized and expected labor market conditions and inflation” after its July meeting, the Federal Open Market Committee, Fed’s rate-setting arm, left the federal funds rate unchanged at 1-1/4 percent. The committee also signaled its intention to begin paring [Read More...]

July 26, 2017

By Matthew Gaines We face many challenges in life. Obtaining a doctor’s note certifying the need for an emotional support animal isn’t one of them. And for condo association board members and managers, this is a source of considerable and increasing frustration. The federal Fair Housing Act and its Massachusetts counterpart (MGL c. 151B) require housing providers, including condominium and homeowner associations, to offer “reasonable accommodations” to residents who suffer from physical or emotional disabilities. [Read More...]

July 21, 2017

A HIGH NOTE Massachusetts lawmakers working on implementation language for the voter referendum legalizing recreational use of marijuana in the state have agreed on a compromise that would tax retail sales of the drug at a 20 percent rate. The House version of the bill had called for a 28 percent rate; the Senate version retained the 12 percent rate proposed in the initiative voters approved last November. The 20 percent tax on marijuana sales [Read More...]

July 13, 2017

By Edmund Allcock Litigation is unpredictable. That’s no surprise to anyone who fights court battles regularly. It is also a theme reflected in three recent court decisions dealing with developer rights. In the first case, Condominiums at Lilac Lane v. Monument Garden, LLC, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that additions to an existing condominium were not subject to time limits and other statutory restrictions on phased developments. The New Hampshire Condominium Act created the [Read More...]

July 3, 2017

MOOD CHANGES This could be good news for the inventory-starved housing market. More than 70 percent of the homeowners responding to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR’s) quarterly HOME survey said they think this is a good time to sell. If those sentiments turn into listings, they could bring a measure of relief to a housing market plagued by a persistent lack of homes available for buyers who want to purchase them. While owners are [Read More...]

June 18, 2017

NO FED SURPRISE Predictions that the Fed would increase interest rates at its June meeting were virtually unanimous, and the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed’s policy-making arm, didn’t surprise or disappoint. The 25 basis point increase the committee announced, its third consecutive adjustment, pushed the target range for the Fed Funds rate to between 1 and 1.25 percent. The increase “reflects the progress the economy has made,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a [Read More...]

June 6, 2017

SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation and the Anti-SLAPP law is codified under M.G.L. c. 231, s.59H. The purpose of the law is to prevent a person or business from suing someone for the sole reason of trying to silence that person’s petitioning activity.  For example, a group of protestors consistently rail against the local Board of Selectman as the protestors believe the Board is corrupt and engaged in self-dealing.  In response, the [Read More...]

June 6, 2017

Recently, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted and Gov. Baker signed into law several important changes to the Massachusetts Zoning Act, General Laws chapter 40A, and the Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production Act, General Laws chapter 40R. Summaries of these amendments are as follows: New Starter Home Initiative. Sections 37 through 54 of Chapter 219 of the Acts of 2016, St. 2016, Ch. 219, amend General Laws chapter 40R, Smart Growth Zoning and Housing Production, by [Read More...]

May 31, 2017

FLOOD INSURANCE REFORM Congressional lawmakers have launched a bipartisan effort to reform the troubled federal flood insurance program. Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) unveiled draft legislation that incorporates a broad range of ideas supported by Republicans and Democrats Draft legislation aimed at stabilizing the financially fragile program. Key provisions would: Restrict or bar coverage for properties in high risk areas that file multiple insurance [Read More...]

May 29, 2017

By Stephen Marcus It is a sign of technology’s fast and firm grip that few of us can remember a time when we communicated by mail (letters inserted in envelopes, affixed with stamps and delivered by the post office) rather than e-mail, delivered instantly to one recipient or dozens of them by pressing the “send” button on a computer. E-mail has become the communication standard, used to communicate just about everything to just about everyone. [Read More...]

May 17, 2017

FED STANDS PAT The Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged at its April meeting, but remains on course to boost rates at least twice before the end of this year. Some analysts had predicted that the sharp decline in the March employment numbers, compounded by the first quarter’s disappointing 0.7 percent increase in economic growth might give the Fed pause. But a stronger than expected April employment report seemed to confirm the Fed’s view that [Read More...]

May 2, 2017

IN SYNC New and existing home sales have been following a zig-zag pattern (one up and one down) of late, but they fell into lock-step; in March, getting the spring home buying season off to a roaring start. Existing home sales hit a 10-year high in March, reaching an annualized pace of 5.71 million units, percent above the year-ago level. The March surge reversed a February slump that some analysts had viewed as an ominous [Read More...]

April 17, 2017

By John Shaffer, Esq. Do you have LUST? Not “in your heart,” as former President Jimmy Carter once confessed, but buried underground, somewhere in your condominium community? That ‘LUST’ is an acronym for “Leaking Underground Storage Tanks,” either currently in use or abandoned long ago, that could have leaked and may still be leaking fuel oil, gasoline or other toxic substances. Few condominium communities have underground tanks. You won’t typically find them in new construction, [Read More...]

April 13, 2017

EMPLOYMENT REPORT DISAPPOINTS. The employment numbers for March fell below expectations, disappointing many analysts, but they aren’t expected to alter the Federal Reserve’s plan to boost interest rates at least twice and maybe three more times this year. Employers added only 98,000 jobs in March, falling far short of the 200,000-plus mark they had registered in January and February and missing the consensus forecast that called for gains close to that level. Despite the stumble, [Read More...]

April 1, 2017

INVENTORY WOES Concerns about rising interest rates and shrinking inventories, bubbling beneath the surface of real estate discussions for much of last year, have boiled over, dominating recent news reports and raising questions about the outlook for this year. Existing home sales declined more than expected in February, undercut by a persistent inventory shortage that is limiting choices (especially for entry-level buyers) and increasing prices. The 3.7 percent dip reported by the National Association of [Read More...]

March 24, 2017

By Edmund Allcock Proponents of the new state law permitting recreational use of marijuana, and the voters who approved it, viewed the measure as a long overdue move to put marijuana in the same category as alcoholic beverages ─ no more or less harmful and no more or less subject to abuse than beer and wine. Voting ‘yes’ for marijuana was relatively easy; dealing with the avalanche of legal, political and administrative questions the law [Read More...]

March 16, 2017

FED ACTS – AS EXPECTED As expected, the Federal Reserve, which has been telegraphing its intention to boost interest rates for several months, did just that following its March meeting, ratcheting the Fed’s benchmark rate up a quarter of a point to a target range of 0.75 percent to 1 percent. Also as expected, Fed officials indicated that additional increases are likely – two more quarter-point hikes this year and three in 2018. The Fed’s [Read More...]

March 6, 2017

RESILIENT BUYERS Shrinking inventories and rising interest rates continue to worry housing industry executives, but they haven’t deterred home buyers — at least, not so far, this year. Existing home sales increased by 3.3 percent in January compared with the December total. The annualized rate of 5.69 million units was the highest in a decade. Sales of condominiums and cooperatives jumped by more than 8 percent nationally. New home sales also rose by 3.7 percent [Read More...]

February 27, 2017

By Mark Einhorn and John Shaffer We regularly advise condominium boards to be wary of taking on obligations beyond those state laws or their association’s governing documents require them to assume. A recent decision by a Massachusetts Appeals Court adds a judicial exclamation point to that advice. The decision (Eric Halbach vs. Normandy Real Estate Partners) deals with the obligations of property owners to maintain walkways. The property owner in this case owned a commercial [Read More...]

February 10, 2017

MILLENNIAL MINDSET Although most industry surveys continue to indicate that homeownership remains an important part of the American Dream, some analysts have detected what they think may be a sea change in the attitudes of millennials, who have not yet jumped on the housing ladder. Caren Maio, a millennial and a real estate professional, described that change in a recent blog: “In the span of a decade, the American Dream of homeownership has lost a [Read More...]