Condo Counsel

The Legalization of Medical Marijuana: Associations Deal with High Stakes and Murky Legal Issues

 by Henry A. Goodman, Esq.

For some time, condominium boards have had to deal with the challenging issue of smoking in their communities.  Now, with the legalization of medical marijuana in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, smoking issues have become more complicated—and the resulting legal implications have become increasingly murky. (more…)

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Not So Fast: A Private Speeder is Stopped in His Tracks

By Merle Hass, Esq.
*This will be the last article authored by Ms. Hass as she has accepted the position of Assistant General Counsel to the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers.

While there are no reported cases in Massachusetts on this issue, associations frequently confront the problem of unit owners and occupants speeding through the condominium grounds and otherwise failing to observe the board’s rules concerning driving on the roadways. We have just reviewed an interesting, recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court concerning the right of a Property Owners Association to enforce traffic rules and regulations on its private grounds (captioned Poris v. Lake Holiday Property Owners Association, 2013 Ill. 113907, 2013).

(more…)

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Unpaid Common Fees and Bankruptcy: Navigating the Conundrum of Financial Distress

 by Henry A. Goodman, Esq.

In 1993, the Massachusetts legislature, by act signed by the governor with an emergency preamble, granted condominiums a limited priority lien ahead of the first mortgage. The legislature did this, in part, to force lenders to take action when they had previously failed to act. This failure to act when lenders had the priority over associations caused financial distress to associations that were not collecting sufficient common fees from delinquents. However, this great tool that levels the playing field is always under attack (1) from lenders who oppose more than one priority lien period in any 30-year mortgage and (2) unit owners who are in financial distress.

Along comes bankruptcy. The basic principle is to give a second chance to a person without hope financially. Therefore, when one decides that there is no way to make ends meet, that person may file a request for relief from the bankruptcy court. (more…)

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Making Sense of a Senseless Act: The Newtown Tragedy and Uncomfortable Questions to Come

By Frank A. Lombardi, Esq.

It’s been two months since the tragic shooting at Shady Hook in Newtown, Conn., and I’m still processing this.  I don’t know whether this was a result of a failed gun control policy, underfunded mental health policies, or an increasingly violent society.  What I am certain of is that whatever comes of this, the matter will hit close to home for people living in community associations. If, by raising questions, the dialogue continues and leads to a safer environment for all of us, especially children, then we can hopefully move forward.

For now, though, as a condominium law practitioner, I can anticipate key questions we will need to deal with:

  • Can we limit or ban guns in condominiums?
  • Can or must the association protect its members from unit owners with mental or emotional health issues who could be considered “dangerous” but may not in fact be dangerous?

Related to the above, it’s important to address the following concerns:   (more…)

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Coming Home: Homes and Condos Fill Up with Family Members, Creating Legal and Ethical Dilemmas

By Frank A. Lombardi, Esq.

Someone once said that “Home is the place that you go where they have to take you in.”

Given today’s still uncertain economy, those words are ringing true in Providence and beyond.

With the onset of the Great Recession, the world’s most powerful economy went into a deep and extended contraction and correction. As a result, millions of people have lost jobs and experienced a catastrophic loss of equity in their homes, if not an out-and-out loss through foreclosure or short sales.  And so, scores of family members, both young and old, are coming home.

By “home,” I mean that place where 60- to-80-something seniors are living with their 30- to-40-something children, who in turn, are living with their infant, pre-teen and teenage children as well.  Throw in aunts, uncles, and cousins with their significant others, and you have some or all generations of a family living under one roof.

All this creates legal and ethical dilemmas.  (more…)

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Bring on the New Year!


A Review of 2012, a Preview of 2013

Issues affecting condominium communities are often complex and always changing, as exemplified by the news in 2012.  At GSL, we try to deal with issues before they become problems, and we also try to learn from the past.  Throughout our service area, we are proud to take a leadership role in our industry, whether it is sponsoring CAI and NE Condominium Expos, hosting seminars, serving on legislative action committees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, tracking new regulations, or writing commentaries on a myriad of topics that affect our clients and colleagues.

Key to our approach is serving as a resource to you, and a major initiative in 2012 was developing a new GSL website with an informative blog, featuring posts that typically coincided with industry news.  Looking back, we thought it would be helpful to review some of last year’s industry highlights with links to our blog posts and related articles.  What follows are seasonal spotlights, starting with a piece last December about why associations shouldn’t take shortcuts and ending with an announcement this week about our Rhode Island office move.  In between, we cover everything from smoking offenders to sexual offenders, dog days to pool days, mulch to music, loans to liens, the FHA to the SJC.

Here’s our review with links to all: (more…)

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Taking Over From the Developer: How Can an Association Take Control?

By Henry A. Goodman, Esq. 

I was recently asked to speak to an ad hoc committee of unit owners on the subject of what an association should do when an independent board takes over from the developer/declarant of a condominium.  Based on recent changes in the way the law is interpreted, this issue is important to the wider condominium community, and I thought it would be timely to share my thoughts with you.

The transition from developer to independent board elected by unit owners is not to be taken lightly, as there are many hidden issues.  But before we discuss these issues in light of the evolving state of the law, it is important to review basic principles that have not changed: (more…)

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Beware the Dog Days of November: New Legislation Changes Animal Regulation Control

By Merle Hass, Esq.

The dog days of summer are gone, but new legislation regarding canines needs to be addressed this fall and beyond.

On August 2, 2012 Gov. Patrick signed into law “An Act Further Regulating Animal Control.” The new law makes changes to many animal control laws and creates new provisions and protections. The bill, which had the support of The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as well as the Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association, went into effect October 31, 2012. (more…)

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FHA Releases Updated Condominium Guidelines: Addresses Areas of CAI Concern and Makes it Easier to Get Project Certification

By Henry A. Goodman, Esq. 

As you may be aware, in the past, getting FHA certification for condominium projects has often been very challenging, and this has been a concern for CAI and GSL.

Now, we are pleased to report that FHA has released updated guidelines for project approval, and it has addressed key areas of our concerns.  Most importantly, FHA acknowledged that certain policy changes were needed in light of current housing market conditions.  The upshot of these changes is that some regulations will be relaxed, and it will now be easier to secure project approval (assuming that associations will adhere to the new guidelines). (more…)

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Much Ado about Mulch: Need to Comply with New State Regulations

By Henry A. Goodman, Esq.

Well, it’s officially the fall, and many condominium associations have turned their attention away from landscapers and are meeting with contractors regarding snow removal plans.  That’s a good idea, but we need to return to the soil for a moment before it freezes.

Associations now need to address new mulch regulations that went into effect September 1, 2012.  These regulations come in response to several local fires involving mulch-wood products.  A key new policy provision in the new regs concerns the need to use mulch that is fire-retardant. (more…)

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