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Massachusetts Condo & HOA Articles Archive

/ Owner - July 1, 2012
  • Do Condominium Boards Have the Right to Restrict Signs? (MA)
    QUESTION: Our condominium association has a rule barring the display of signs in common areas or in locations visible from common areas.  Some board members say we are required to make an exception for political signs. Is that true?   Read the Q&A………………………………..
  • Boards & Boundaries: How ‘Available’ Should You Be?
    In multifamily residential communities, where neighbors share common space, amenities, and maintenance—if not actual walls—establishing and maintaining boundaries can be a bit tricky.   Read the article…………………………….
  • Condominium Owners Should Recognize Their Rights and Understand their Responsibilities (MA)
    “I know my rights!” This is a statement association boards hear frequently from owners, usually in response to a board decision, covenant or rule requiring something owners don’t like or prohibiting something they want to do. As it turns out, many owners don’t really know their rights.    Read the article………………………………….
  • 10 things to know before you buy in a community association
    Are you planning to buy a home in a community association? There are a host of advantages to buying a condominium, cooperative, or single-family home in a planned community. A well-run association will protect property values in the community, maintain common areas (and perhaps even your own property), provide access to amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts, and assist with conflict resolution among neighbors.   Read the article……………………………..
  • 3 Ways to Maximize Sustainability in Your Community (MA)
    As climate change continues to take a toll on the planet, it’s important to understand how industries like property management and development can and should adapt in order to cease contributing to the ongoing crises.   Read the article…………………………….
  • Emergency Preparedness in the Era of Climate Change: Preparing for the Unpredictable
    The acceleration of global warming and the accompanying climate crisis is affecting shared-interest residential communities all over the United States and around the world. This past September was the wettest ever recorded in the eastern United States, with nine times the normal rainfall. Scientists warn that excessive rain and wind, extreme heat and cold, as well as increasingly intense discrete weather events like hurricanes and tornadoes, will continue and likely worsen as the planet continues to heat.   Read the article………………………………..
  • Powering E-Devices Safely: There Are Fires … And There Are E-Device Fires
    All over the news, from coast to coast, reports of fires and explosions caused by lithium-ion batteries describe blazes that are out of control, difficult to extinguish, and excessively smokey. Tragically, many have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries, and certainly all have caused extensive damage to properties and the environment.   Read the article………………………..
  • Holding Elections: Every Board’s Duty
    Shared residential communities such as condos, co-ops, and HOAs are modern examples of classic Athenian democracy: citizens governing themselves through active participation in governance. The key to that governance is the regularity of elections to the community’s leadership—which in this case is the board of directors.  Read the article………………………………
  • 10 things to know before you buy in a community association
    Are you planning to buy a home in a community association? There are a host of advantages to buying a condominium, cooperative, or single-family home in a planned community. A well-run association will protect property values in the community, maintain common areas (and perhaps even your own property), provide access to amenities like swimming pools and tennis courts, and assist with conflict resolution among neighbors.    Read the article…………………………….
  • HOA Electronic Voting and Bylaws
    An election for the Flagship Wharf Condominium Association’s board was upcoming. Members were told they could vote in person at the meeting, by directed proxy, or electronically through a unique link sent to each Unit. One of the candidates asked the board to amend the association’s Bylaws to explicitly allow for members to vote electronically prior to the election, but the board declined to do so. That candidate lost the election and sued alleging the vote was void because electronic voting was used.    Read the article……………………………..
  • Maintaining Your Elevators: Regular Care Can Help Avoid Huge Replacement Costs
    The elevator is one of those inventions—along with running hot and cold water and indoor plumbing—that have been around for so long we take it for granted. But elevators obviously weren’t always a part of the architectural landscape. Without them we’d still be living in a world of six-story buildings (maybe seven for the strong-legged), and we’d be climbing stairs all day long.    Read the article……………………………..
  • Effective Committees: Maximizing Use of Community Volunteers
    In a typical condo, co-op, or homeowners association, residents have a lot to say about how their building or community is or should be functioning … but few actually step up to run for and serve on the board that does the actual governing. One reason is that board service can be a heavy lift, requiring time, energy, and diplomacy that the average homeowner might be unable or unwilling to give on a volunteer basis.    Read the article……………………………….
  • Amending Your Governing Documents – Why, When, & How to Make Changes
    In addition to their boards, common interest communities are governed by a set of foundational documents. In a condominium, those documents are the declaration and bylaws; co-ops also have bylaws, as well as a unique document called a proprietary lease. In addition, both condos and co-ops have a set of house rules that can vary somewhat from community to community.   Read the article………………………………..
  • Litigation in Your Community – Lawsuits Can Have Long-Term Impacts
    When seeking a place to call home, potential co-op and condo buyers are seeking a place of peace and quiet. No one wants to live in the midst of a tempest. And peace and quiet can be both literal and figurative, of course. The constant din of discord and disagreement caused by endless litigation, for example, can be as distracting and destructive to a property’s reputation as the roar of truck traffic day after day.    Read the article…………………………….
  • Annoyance, Harassment, Complaint ot Threat: When Should Boards Act and What Should They Do?
    Remember when people would ask in the middle of a heated dispute: “Can’t we all just get along?” No one asks that question very often anymore because the answer clearly is, no. We can’t get along. We can’t seem to behave with even moderate civility. Debates (loosely defined) in Congress are only one example.   Read the article………………………..
  • Problem Solved – Accessing a Unit (MA)
    Most governing documents allow the trust to gain access to an owner’s unit to deal with both emergency and non-emergency situations. So the first step is to review the association’s documents to make sure they provide this authority  Read the article………………………..
  • Resources for Multifamily Boards Where Communities Go to Stay in the Know
    The Community Associations Network (www.communityassociations.net) is an online resource that aggregates news and information related to co-ops, condos, and HOAs. There, boards and service professionals can access the latest on legislation, events, and issues pertaining to association living and governance throughout the U.S. and Canada.   Read the article………………………..
  • Website Accessibility: The ADA and FHA
    In recent years, and trending more frequently as of late, we have heard about businesses, big and small, receiving demand letters related to their website accessibility, alleging ADA noncompliance, and threatening to file suit and seek damages on behalf of the people with disabilities they represent. Here we will cover what web accessibility means and is required and by whom under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act (FHA).   Read the article………………………..
  • When It’s Time for an Audit – Covering the Basics for Multifamily Boards
    When the average American taxpayer (or tax-dodger, one supposes) hears the word “audit,” they’re likely struck with a feeling somewhere between annoyance and terror—usually because being audited means that something has been found amiss in their filing. For businesses that rely on the accuracy and timeliness of their financial records, however, including condominium and homeowners associations and cooperative corporations, an audit is—or at least ought to be—a regular part of a healthy fiscal practice.   Read the article………………………..
  • Fannie Mae’s Secret ‘Blacklist’ of Properties: As Many as 1,700 Condos, Co-ops & HOAs May Be Affected
    According to a recent investigative piece by the Orange County (Florida) Register, Fannie Mae is keeping a secret “blacklist” of condominium, HOA and cooperative properties which the federal agency has decreed that lenders should stay away from. Fannie Mae is a United States Government sponsored enterprise whose purpose is to expand the secondary mortgage market. According to the Register, Fannie Mae’s “blacklist” identifies 1,400 properties and growing. A more recent report indicated that the list has grown to 1,700 properties.   Read the article………………………..
  • Insurance Premiums Skyrocket – 90% of Multifamily Communities Report Paying More – What’s to Blame?
    Inflation has hit the insurance building insurance industry in a big way. And according to a recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research (FCAR), skyrocketing premiums are putting serious financial pressure on condo and homeowners associations nationwide.    Read the article………………………..
  • Fannie Mae’s Secret ‘Blacklist’ of Properties As Many as 1,700 Condos, Co-ops & HOAs May Be Affected
    According to a recent investigative piece by the Orange County (Florida) Register, Fannie Mae is keeping a secret “blacklist” of condominium, HOA and cooperative properties which the federal agency has decreed that lenders should stay away from. Fannie Mae is a United States Government sponsored enterprise whose purpose is to expand the secondary mortgage market. According to the Register, Fannie Mae’s “blacklist” identifies 1,400 properties and growing. A more recent report indicated that the list has grown to 1,700 properties.   Read the article………………………..
  • Can a Homeowners Association Kick You Out in Massachusetts?
    If you have always lived in a place without a homeowners association transitioning into one is often a challenge. You used to be king of your castle, and now you’re under someone’s constant supervision.  When buying a condo, a homeowner’s association is commonplace.   Read the article………………………..
  • What’s Trending in Multifamily Amenities
    The appeal of multifamily living is not just in the hands-off maintenance and shared general expenses that come with living in a condo, co-op, or HOA. It’s also in the sense of community and the on-site offerings that can be shared among neighbors. Amenities and social programming in co-ops, condos, and HOAs can distinguish one building or community from another and add to its popularity and property value.    Read the article………………………..
  • Trustee Certificates – An Important Part of Board Governance (MA)
    Trustee certificates are an important and necessary part of board governance, but they are an often-neglected component. Trustee certificates are recorded with the county registry of deeds in which the condominium is located and evidence for the world the identity and authority of members of the condominium association’s governing board. Most condominiums require a certificate to be recorded each year, or upon the filling of any board vacancy.   Read the article………………………..
  • Window Maintenance & Replacement: Caring for a Crucial Building System
    When it comes to the list of most important systems to maintain—and potentially the most expensive to replace—in a multifamily building, windows are definitely near the top. The useful life of a given window depends on a number of factors, including its composition and design, as well as seasonal shifts and prevailing weather conditions. Deteriorated windows can lead to problems with other building envelope systems, including façades of all types, from clapboard to masonry and everything in between.   Read the article………………………..
  • How Not to Handle a Parking Dispute (MA)
    Parking questions come up often and the answers to those questions are not always obvious. Resolution of parking issues typically comes down to what was contemplated by the governing documents and how that relates to the actual situation on the ground. The recent Land Court case of Stahl v. Baker delves into this issue.    Read the article………………………..
  • Short-term Rentals No Longer Generating Headlines But Still Causing Concerns (MA)
    Five years ago, the explosive growth of vacation-rental platforms like Airbnb had become a major concern for condominium communities, as an increasing number of owners discovered that renting their units to guests for short periods could produce significant income with minimal administrative headaches for them.   Read the article………………………..
  • Dos & Don’t of Newsletters in Associations
    Good communication is a hallmark of being a good property manager. From connecting personally on lease signing day or move-in day to keeping renters apprised of happenings around the property throughout the year, communication is key to keeping the property running smoothly.   Read the article………………………..
  • Continuity & Transfer of Power: Getting New Boards & Board Members Up to Speed
    Among the keys to successful governance of residential communities is continuity. The most basic of democratically elected units, condo, co-op, and HOA boards are the custodians of their community’s welfare, success, and continued operation. Over time, the experience and insight accrued by board members, directors, or trustees are the compass and rudder that steer and stabilize the community.    Read the article………………………..
  • Handling Sensitive Complaints in Co-ops & Condos: Sex, Smells, & Nuisances
    Conflict comes hand-in-hand with living in close quarters—and condominium and cooperative living is a prime example. Most dust-ups between neighbors involve run-of-the-mill issues like noise or hallway clutter, and can be settled with a cordial conversation between the parties involved—or with a mild nudge from the manager or board.  Read the article………………………..
  • The condo amenities conundrum: What’s in What’s out? What’s just plain useless? (MA)
    Amenity floors may have been once reserved for the most luxurious of condo developers, but they are now standard offerings across many multifamily residential developments.   Read the article………………………..
  • Bankruptcy Court Upholds Condominium Lien Foreclosure (MA)
    It has long been commonplace for mortgagors to attack all aspects of a bank’s mortgage foreclosure sale in order to invalidate the foreclosure sale and retain the mortgaged property. There have been far fewer such attacks on the validity of a statutory condominium lien foreclosure, and no prior Massachusetts case has determined when the unit owner’s right of redemption is extinguished, until now.   Read the article………………………..
  • The Board Management Relationship: A Functional Partnership
    In the world of co-ops, condos, and HOAs, management plays a slightly different role than it does in the rest of the real estate world. For example, in many rental buildings, the landlord or property owner often acts as de facto manager as well; in others, the manager may be an employee or an associate of the owner—in any case, it’s a person or entity knowledgeable about multifamily residential real estate and how it operates.   Read the article………………………..
  • Holding Elections: Democracy at the Micro Level
    In many ways co-op, condo, and HOA living represents the most basic form of representative democracy. Like the ancient Athenians, we gather periodically to elect a small group from among us to represent our joint interests and to oversee the finances and well-being of the community.  Ah, now, if only it were that simple.   Read the article………………………..
  • Boston Condominium Association Prevails on Summary Judgment Based on Business Judgment Rule Concerning Insurance Shortfall (MA)
    A recent summary judgment decision issued by the Suffolk Superior Court has endorsed the employment of the business judgment rule in assessing the decisions of a condominium association concerning the amount of insurance maintained. In Joseph Cimino v. Lynn Ornstedt et al., Suffolk Superior Court Civil Action No. 1984CV01991, the Court allowed the condominium association’s motion for summary judgment, dismissing the plaintiff unit owner’s claims for breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.    Read the article………………………..
  • Surveillance in Buildings & HOAs Privacy vs. Safety? (MA)
    In 2017, a Boston couple were brutally murdered in their penthouse apartment in a high-end condominium building. The murderer, the former employee of a company that supplied concierge services to the condo, had worked there, and so knew the ins and outs of the building—including some serious gaps in the property’s security that both the board and manager were aware of, but had done nothing to address.   Read the article………………………..
  • Follow The Rules! Tools To Effectively Enforce Compliance With Condominium Rules
    Rules and regulations govern all aspects of community association living including, for example, when monthly common area charges are due, what types of pets (if any) you are allowed to keep, the time of day you can move in or out of your unit, whether and how you are permitted to rent your unit, landscaping requirements/restrictions . . . and the list goes on.   Read the article………………………..
  • Who Can Serve On The Condominium Board? A Simple Question With Many Variables (MA)
    As many board members and property managers know, we are currently in a season where many condominium associations hold annual meetings. With each of those annual meetings generally comes an election for members of the condominium board. When a board is approaching an election, management and board members must be clear as to who is eligible to serve as a board member.   Read the article………………………..
  • Condominium Collection Practices in Massachusetts
    This practice note explains the steps and procedures that must be followed to collect common area fees from delinquent condominium unit owners in Massachusetts. This practice note provides tips for navigating statutory requirements and also identifies traps that should be avoided when proceeding with a collection action in Massachusetts.   Read the article………………………..
  • Condominium Ownership and Operation in Massachusetts
    This practice note discusses the establishment and operation of a condominium in Massachusetts, including the organization of unit owners, budget, reserves, financial audits, books and records, common area expenses, insurance, annual meetings, and establishing and enforcing rules.    Read the article………………………..
  • Better Board Involvement: Getting Residents on Board (Literally)
    Even among otherwise conscientious, community-minded condo, HOA, and co-op residents, the idea of running for and serving on their board often ranks somewhere between taxes and dental work on their list of things to look forward to. It conjures thoughts of endless meetings…arguing about the minutiae of vendor bids…confrontations with neighbors unhappy with board decisions…gossipy remarks in the elevator…the list goes on.   Read the article………………………..
  • Insurer’s Reservation of Rights May Increase Your Association’s Liability Costs (MA)
    When faced with a significant liability claim, or even a small one, condo association boards have to decide whether to fight or settle it, typically in both cases, relying on insurance to cover the costs. A recent decision by a federal District Court in Massachusetts (Berkley National Insurance Company v. Granite Telecommunications) has made that already complicated decision potentially more difficult.    Read the article………………………..
  • A Cautionary Tale for Associations: A Condominium Association Bears a Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care for the Resident’s Safety in the Common Areas (MA)
    The recent Massachusetts Superior Court decision in Field, et al. v. Highbridge Concierge, Inc., et al., 1784 CV 02486-B (Mass. Super. Ct. July 5, 2022) (Roach, J.), defines the standard of care that condominium trusts owe to unit owners and others lawfully within the common areas.     Read the article………………………..
  • Why you should serve on your condo board. Really (MA)
    Volunteer work may conjure images of philanthropy and gestures of goodwill, but in the case of volunteering to sit on a condo board, those in the know say it’s more like being a human punching bag.   Read the article………………………..
  • Security Issues for Associations (MA)
    A recent Massachusetts Superior Court decision (Field, et. al. v. Highbridge Concierge, Inc., et. al.) has rattled windows in the condominium world, describing, in large capital letters, the security obligations of condominium associations and association managers.  Read the article………………………..
  • Financial, Physical, & Operational Health: How Does Your Association Measure Up?
    In early 2020, our firm was hired to prepare a reserve study for an unremarkable 136-unit, 12-story condominium in south Florida. It was the kind of association you could drive right by without noticing, not much different from all the other high-rise buildings in this coastal neighborhood.   Read the article………………………..
  • Conducting Better Meetings: Tips for Saving Time & Staying On Track
    Residents in condo and HOA communities are frequently quite busy. Boards generally consist of elected volunteers who nearly always have other jobs and lives outside their duties as trustees. So while a professional management company can handle much of the day-to-day operations of a multifamily community, no decision can be made without those board members coming together to represent the interests of their neighbors.   Read the article………………………..
  • Bankruptcy Basics for Condominiums (MA)
    During the COVID-19 pandemic, both the federal government and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts imposed foreclosure and eviction moratoriums. Due to these moratoriums, consumer bankruptcy filings fell dramatically as the urgency to protect assets, especially residential property, was no longer an immediate concern. Once the moratoriums ended, there was concern that a tsunami of bankruptcy filings would overwhelm both the courts and bankruptcy counsel as it was believed that banks would immediately race to foreclose on the backlog of thousands of delinquent mortgage loans.   Read the article………………………..
  • Who’s a Good Board? Pros Weigh in on Co-op, Condo, HOA Leadership
    The 347,000 planned communities in the United States—a number that includes cooperatives, condominiums, and homeowners associations—are generally governed by volunteer members of the building or community elected by their fellow unit owners or shareholders. There are no requirements or prerequisites for serving on a board, other than what might be specified in the governing documents of a particular community—usually status as a member in good standing and a minimum age, for example.  Read the article………………………..
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