Category: Legal Alerts

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...]

By Matthew Gaines and John Shaffer Anyone who tracks legislation and regulations affecting condominiums has to wonder if lawmakers and regulators understand what condos are and how they operate. Proposed revisions to the state Sanitary Code demonstrate once again that they do not. The Department of Public Health wants to update the existing code ─ unquestionably a reasonable undertaking, both necessary and long overdue. But provisions aimed at controlling pests in multi-family housing would cause [Read More...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

By Stephen Marcus and Edmund Allcock Relations between the developers who produce condominiums and the owners who purchase them are not always harmonious, to say the least. They clash over many issues, but disputes over retained developers’ rights and construction defects are among the most common. These disputes are also complex and often result in litigation. One condominium community – Commercial Wharf in Cambridge – has actually spurred two seemingly contradictory court decisions on the [Read More...]

By Patrick Brady and Mark Einhorn Equifax, one of the major consumer credit reporting bureaus, announced recently that it will begin including the common are fees and assessments condominium owners pay in the calculation of consumer credit scores. Sperlonga, a data aggregator that will be collecting this information for Equifax, says the expanded reporting will help consumers improve their credit scores by adding another source of timely payments that will count in their favor. That [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus The risks confronting condo associations are generally well-known. Although there are always variations on old themes, the risk fundamentals don’t tend to change much from year to year. But every now and then new risks emerge, like Loch-ness monsters from the deep, to threaten condo communities and challenge the boards and managers who oversee them. We have three new risks to add to association worry lists: Pokémon, Zika and Marijuana. Pokémon Most [Read More...]

© 2018 Marcus Errico Emmer Brooks PC