Legal Alerts

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 [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 [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus Cyber-thefts are becoming more frequent, more sophisticated and more costly. This isn’t news to anyone who surfs the Internet, reads newspapers (I’m told I’m not the only one who still does that) and watches television news. But if you think only the largest financial institutions and giant corporations are at risk, you [Read More...]

by Mark Einhorn When a gunman opened fire on patrons at an Orlando nightclub a few weeks ago, killing and injuring more than 100, commentators grappled initially with the horror of the act. But they also speculated about the obligation of the nightclub owner to provide better security. Community association boards confront the same question: [Read More...]

By Matthew Gaines The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has issued guidance restricting the use of criminal background checks to screen prospective residents. The guidance warns property owners that a blanket policy rejecting residents solely because they have a criminal record may violate the Fair Housing Act, because it could have a discriminatory [Read More...]

“Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” That oft-repeated and often-needed reminder comes to mind following a recent decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), affirming the ability of condominium associations to establish multiple contemporaneous priority liens to collect unpaid monthly common fees. The history of the “rolling lien,” and [Read More...]

By Stephen Marcus and John Shaffer We’ve all heard that oral contracts “aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.” The same might be said of the certificates of insurance condo associations demand from their contractors: The certificates aren’t what they appear to be; they don’t provide the protection boards and association managers think they are [Read More...]

A tiny political sign triggered a giant-sized dispute in a Colorado condominium, when the association manager said the sign violated an association rule governing common area displays and told the residents to remove it. The college students renting the unit, who had hung the 1.5′ x 1′ sign (supporting Bernie Sanders) from their balcony, complained [Read More...]

When the dentist says, “this won’t hurt a bit,” most of us know to brace for intense pain – or at least acute discomfort. The same assumption applies when government officials say new laws or regulations won’t impose new obligations or create additional liability. The department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has offered that [Read More...]

The condominium “superlien” is under attack. That doesn’t overstate at all the concerted efforts now under way to revoke a measure that has been working well in many states for more than two decades. Nor does it exaggerate the potential threat to the financial health and viability of condo associations all over the country. The [Read More...]

I want to talk about the ABCs of community associations, or, more precisely, the CAs and HOAs, which can be confusing even to people who live in one of these communities. First the basics: Condominium Associations and Home Owner Associations — CAs and HOAs, respectively — are the corporate entities governing different kinds of common [Read More...]

We don’t usually discuss employment law in this space, but a recent decision of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will have significant implications for condo associations and association management companies, potentially affecting their employment practices and their liability risks. The ruling, in Browning Ferris Industries of California, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015) revised and [Read More...]

The fall weather has been glorious. The foliage has been spectacular. The Red Sox didn’t make the playoffs, but the Yanks have been eliminated, so at least we won’t have to watch them in a World Series, or worse, in a victory parade. With so many positives to contemplate, why would anyone want to think [Read More...]

When it comes to technology I am somewhat of a technophobe. I was a Blackberry holdout and I still read newspapers (the paper version) in my hand. So, not surprisingly, I hadn’t thought much about drones ― until I looked up recently and saw one buzzing over my deck with what looked like a high [Read More...]

If you ask condo association board members to list their most challenging tasks, maintaining appropriate insurance coverage for their community would probably rank at or near the top. Managing insurance claims – almost as complicated and often more difficult ─ wouldn’t be far behind. The first question many boards ask about an insurance claim is [Read More...]

One of our clients received a request recently to waive the association’s smoking ban to allow a resident to smoke medically-prescribed marijuana. This is the first such marijuana-related accommodation request our office has seen (though it certainly won’t be the last) since Massachusetts approved a law permitting the use of this otherwise illegal drug for [Read More...]

“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 [Read More...]

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” [Read More...]

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 [Read More...]

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, [Read More...]

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 [Read More...]

‘Twas six weeks before Christmas, but in all areas common, The voices of residents already were hummin’ With gripes about what should be hung on the walls, Installed or removed from the floors and the halls. In one lobby corner, Mrs. Jones with great care, Had placed a large Santa, inflated with air. A few [Read More...]

The newly enacted “retainage” law calls to mind the adage about not wanting to see laws or sausage being made. The sausage, at least, is likely to be digestible and maybe even tasty. It’s not clear that either can be said about this new law. Long sought by the Associated Subcontractors of Massachusetts and ultimately [Read More...]

An owner in your condominium community has begun renting his unit to vacationers, who occupy it for short periods – a day or a few days ─ at a time. The owner is delighted with this new source of income, but his neighbors are less pleased with the revolving door of people they don’t know [Read More...]

For condominium boards trying to anticipate future challenges, here’s a prediction that bears considering: Fair housing accommodation requests are going to multiply. This prediction doesn’t require a crystal ball; a general knowledge of demographic trends will tell you what you need to know. Baby boomers are getting older and many of these aging boomers are [Read More...]

In a case handled by MEEB, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) has made it easier for condominium associations to win compensation for construction and design defects and has eliminated some of the uncertainty surrounding those claims. The state’s highest court upheld an Appeals Court ruling (Wyman v. Ayer Properties) holding that the economic loss rule [Read More...]

Although the population of smokers is declining, community associations continue to struggle with disputes between smoking and non-smoking residents. A California jury recently found a homeowners association negligent for failing to resolve one such conflict. Kim and Kai Chauncey complained to the board of their Trabuco Canyon Condominium community that their neighbors ─ tenants renting [Read More...]

The Community Associations Institute (CAI) is opposing a proposed rule that would prohibit community associations from collecting transfer fees on the sale of units in their communities. Sound familiar? It should. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – the primary regulator for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – proposed the same rule but ultimately withdrew [Read More...]

Can condominium associations limit the number of people occupying a residence in the community? The short answer is, if the governing documents impose occupancy restrictions, association boards have the authority to enforce them. But can they do so without violating Fair Housing laws forbidding discrimination against families with children, ethnic minorities, and other protected classes? [Read More...]

Court decisions usually attract our attention because they break original legal ground by creating new precedents or overturning existing ones. But sometimes a decision stands out because it demonstrates that a legal principle established at the appellate level is gaining acceptance and traction closer to ground level in the courts below. A recent Massachusetts Superior [Read More...]