Category: Legal Alerts

By Mark Einhorn Last year, boards and managers were asking what they should do to reduce COVID infection risks in their communities, while waiting for the vaccines that would provide protection from the virus. Now that the vaccines are becoming available, some associations are wondering if they should require residents, employees and vendors to be vaccinated. As with just about everything in the condominium world, it’s complicated. To put the question in some sort of [Read More...]

By Janet Oulousian Aronson Most condo owners are (usually) courteous, considerate and compliant. But every community has at least one owner – and sometimes more than one – who are none of those things. These are the owners who: Oppose everything and support nothing. Regularly harangue board members and managers in meetings and in person. Send scathing e-mails and leave insulting, often scurrilous voice mails. Accuse board members and managers of incompetence or worse; question [Read More...]

Holding Proper Confirming Votes Will Protect Past Actions; Amending the Docs Will Prevent Future Problems By Richard Brooks and Patrick Brady With in-person gatherings proscribed by the pandemic for much of this year, many condominium boards have conducted essential business remotely and many associations have canceled their annual meetings, allowing owners to vote electronically to authorize improvements or to elect new board members. While the imperatives for these nontraditional operations ─ complying with local or [Read More...]

By Dillon G. Brown The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to control it continue to preoccupy condominium association boards and property managers and challenge their ability to respond to rapidly changing governmental guidelines and requirements. Federal regulations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporarily prohibiting property owners from evicting residential tenants for non-payment of rent create a new set of challenges. Although the moratorium primarily affects owners of rental properties, some condominium [Read More...]

By Mark Einhorn Should community associations reopen amenities that were closed during pandemic shutdowns? Most communities that have amenities appear to be grappling with that question. Boards are balancing the legal liability risks, contagion concerns and costs of reopening amenities against the pressure from owners demanding access to them. When we discussed this issue in May, we suggested that associations opting to reopen should closely follow the guidelines issued by state and federal agencies. The [Read More...]

By Mark Einhorn When the water in the pool is icy cold, the standard advice is, hold your breath, close your eyes, and dive in. That is not how condominium association boards should approach the reopening of pools and other amenities closed during the pandemic. Sticking your toe in the water and adjusting gradually to the temperature is a much better idea. Boards will face competing pressures, from owners who will be demanding access to [Read More...]

Come Zoom with MEEB!  Condos need to amend their documents to lawfully and legally permit remote board meetings, electronic elections and even remote unit owner meetings during the pandemic and beyond.  To help Condos roll with the changes, MEEB will pay one year’s free subscription for Zoom with a condo amendment, (a $180.00 value), which will be credited against the cost of the amendment. MEEB’s Preferred Remote Document Amendment gives the Board the discretion to [Read More...]

By Richard Brooks Condominium owners must pay their common area fees. This is not a stop-the-presses revelation. It is a statement of principle, embodied in governing documents and affirmed by countless court decisions over the past 25 years. But the coronavirus pandemic, which has tested so many assumptions, is also challenging this one. As statewide and local shelter-in-place orders have shuttered businesses, unemployment rates have soared, reaching near-Depression-era levels. More than 73 million Americans – [Read More...]

By Gary Daddario I was intrigued, but not surprised, to see that “libel and slander” was one of the headline topics at CAI’s National Law Conference this year. Our firm gets several calls every month from board members who want to sue owners for saying mean, nasty, unfair, untrue, “slanderous” or “libelous” things about them. CAI’s attention to the issue suggests that our experience isn’t unique – this is a national concern, and it’s not [Read More...]

With the beginning of the new year, Ed Allcock became a very busy person. Not that he wasn’t already busy as a managing partner of MEEB and head of its litigation division. But Ed has also assumed two new positions this year, serving simultaneously as president of the New England Chapter of CAI (CAI-NE) and as chair of CAI-National’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL). Ed credits “circumstances and the luck of the draw” for [Read More...]

By Edmund Allcock and Haley Byron Life is full of transitions. In the life of a community association, the most important transition by far is the one that transfers control of the community ─ and responsibility for it ─ from the developer to the owners. A successful transition will set the community firmly on the path to self-governance and financial health. A less than successful transition can set the community back for months or even [Read More...]

By Janet Oulousian Aronson and Mark Einhorn The temperatures are still screaming summer, but the calendar is whispering that fall is near. And for condominium boards and managers, that means it’s time to bring out the fall maintenance checklist to make sure the community’s buildings, operating systems and grounds are ready for the cold weather to come. But buildings and grounds aren’t the only components that require regular maintenance. The associations policies, procedures, rules and [Read More...]

By Jennifer Barnett and Dawn McDonald With the passage of the Paid Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) in 2018, Massachusetts became one of only six states (plus the District of Columbia) that now require employers to offer paid leave to employees who have serious medical problems or who need time to care for family members with serious medical problems. Benefits for Massachusetts workers will begin to phase in starting in January of 2021, but employers [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus You are the president of a condominium board and you don’t appreciate getting a call from a fellow board-member Sunday at midnight. The reason for the call is even less welcome. The board member has lost a laptop containing every essential piece of association related information it would be possible for anyone to have. Names, addresses, account information and credit card numbers for association residents, passcodes for association bank accounts, budget details [Read More...]

By Richard Brooks Condo owners usually understand that they give up some of the rights enjoyed by single-family homeowners. The right to paint their front door any color they choose, to play their music at any decibel level they choose, and even to smoke in their residences, for example, all may be prohibited by condo associations rules or covenants. But condo owners pay property taxes, just like single-family homeowners, and they expect to receive the [Read More...]

By Mark Einhorn Reading the real estate section of the New York Times recently, I was struck by the number of ads featuring condominiums for sale. There would be nothing remarkable about this in the Boston Globe, but condominiums historically have been relatively rare in New York, where cooperatives have long been the primary form of common interest ownership. In Massachusetts (and in New England generally), it is cooperatives that are the exception. There are [Read More...]

By Matthew Gaines and William Thompson A newly enacted state law restricting the authority of condo associations to regulate the installation of electric car charging stations will apply only to condominiums located in Boston. But the implications extend well beyond Boston’s city limits. The reason: More consumers are buying electric cars. They purchased more than 360,000 of those vehicles in the U.S. last year – an 81 percent increase over 2017, which topped the previous [Read More...]

  By Gary M. Daddario If you look at a list of states that have a condominium superlien, you will find New Hampshire among them. But you can’t judge a book by its cover – and you can’t judge a statute by its name. All superliens are not equal. And the New Hampshire superlien includes some differences of which New Hampshire associations should be aware. It is important for boards and managers to understand the [Read More...]

By Jennifer Barnett During the course of their tenure on an association’s governing board, board members will come into possession of a seemingly endless amount of information. While owners are entitled to access the association’s books and records regarding the general operation and management of the association, there are certain categories of sensitive information that board members should safeguard and protect from disclosure. Among those categories of information, are information and materials that are protected [Read More...]

By Jennifer Barnett Condominium board members are often encouraged to be open, honest, and transparent in their communications with the condominium community. However, because of their leadership position, board members often possess confidential information, the disclosure of which may have significant legal and financial implications for the community associations they represent. Confidential information protected by attorney-client privilege is of particular concern. Contrary to a common misunderstanding, the attorney-client privilege doesn’t belong to the attorney; it [Read More...]

By Mark Einhorn and Patrick Brady A friend traveling through the deep south many years ago stopped at a small gas station to ask for directions. The owner, happy to oblige, told him: “Go to the end of this road, take a left and….Nope,” he said. “That won’t work.” Thinking again he said, “Go out of the station, turn right and take your first left… Nope,” he said again. “That won’t work either.” After a [Read More...]

When MEEB opened its doors in 1993, the legal landscape for condominiums was sparse. “There were maybe 100 cases nationally, and only four appellate cases in Massachusetts,” Seth Emmer, one of the firm’s founding partners recalls.” There was virtually no guidance anywhere,” he adds. “We were making it up as we went along.” Over the past 25 years, that barren landscape has been filled in with precedents and policies, laws and regulations, test cases brought, [Read More...]

By Patrick Brady Boston has joined a growing list of cities and towns nationwide moving to regulate and/or restrict the short-term rental of single-family residences. Like other initiatives, the newly enacted Boston ordinance attempts to balance the competing concerns of homeowners, who want or need the revenue generated by renting their homes; vacationers, who want an affordable alternative to hotels; the hotel industry, which objects to what it deems to be unfair competition from properties [Read More...]

By V. Douglas Errico Condo developments have three phases, equivalent in the minds of many developers to the “stages of grief” that describe the mourning process. There is no question that construction glitches, quarrelsome owners, litigation, or the threat of it, that plague some projects can make many developers mourn their career choice. But the development process doesn’t have to be grievous. There are common sense steps developers can take to avoid many of the [Read More...]

By Mark Einhorn Of all the problems condo associations confront – and there are many – hoarding is among the most difficult. Hoarding is both an illness for the hoarder and a nuisance (or worse) for other residents. Handling hoarding situations require boards and managers to balance two sides of a difficult equation: Sensitivity for the hoarder on one side and their obligation to protect the health, safety and well-being of everyone in the community [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus Depending on their size, condominium associations may receive a variety of professional services – from managers, security guards, lifeguards, maintenance workers and administrative assistants, among other personnel. Boards and owners often question the cost and quality of these services, but few, if any, ever wonder, “Whose employees are they?” If you haven’t asked that question, you should, because some of the rules governing employee-employer relationships have changed, and the changes are creating [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus When we talk about insurance, which we do frequently, we talk about its complexities, and there is no question that insurance decisions are complicated, confusing and often intimidating for condo boards. But it isn’t the complexity of insurance that creates the biggest risks for board members and the association’s they govern; it’s the type of coverage and the amount: Many boards don’t buy the kind of insurance they need or enough of [Read More...]

By Pamela M. Jonah Imagine this: Susan and Bill, a retired couple in their late 60s, are sitting around the community association’s pool on a warm summer day, chatting with other residents. They have no children of their own and are becoming increasingly agitated by the high-pitched squeals of children who are swimming and splashing in the water. “I think children should be barred from the pool on weekends, so adults can enjoy it,” Bill [Read More...]

OR, IF YOU PREFER A SHORTER HEAD: SJC Rejects Developers’ “Poison Pills” By Edmund Allcock The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has ruled that condominium developers can’t unreasonably restrict the ability of owners to file suits against them. The court rejected the “poison pill” provisions developers often use to insulate themselves from liability for construction defects, design flaws and other claims condominium owners might pursue against the developers of their communities. I represented the plaintiffs, [Read More...]

by Janet Oulousian Aronson Consistency may be “the hobgoblin of little minds,” as Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested. But it is also an article of faith for many condominium boards, who fear, and rightly so, that if they don’t enforce rules consistently, they may not be able to enforce them at all. Exceptions can all too easily swallow a rule. Owners will have little incentive to obey rules they see others ignoring without consequences. Inconsistent or [Read More...]

© 2021 Marcus Errico Emmer Brooks PC