Condo Counsel

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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Preparing for the Next Economic Wave: Loan Service Will Meet Commercial Real Estate Needs

By Frank A. Lombardi, Esq.

At GSL, we try to anticipate problems as well as trends so that we will be in the best position to serve our clients and colleagues, not only those in condominium communities but also bankers, developers, and contractors. When I contemplate changes in the real estate market, I tend to see myself paddling on a surfboard, with one wave breaking in front of me and another one on the horizon.

While I’m not an economist, I have sensed that there is generally more demand among homebuyers in the New England residential housing market, as evidenced by the closings we’re handling and recent market statistics.  I am also beginning to see rippling effects in the commercial real estate market as well.  Is the market recovery here?  I am not certain, but I am sure that it is not far behind as our offices are witnessing the beginning of increased demand for real estate in the office, industrial, and retail sectors.  Again, I do not know for sure when this next big wave will squarely hit our shores, but I do know that we need to be prepared for changing market conditions, and that will include meeting an increased need for commercial loans.

Accordingly, we at GSL are expanding our real estate legal services to assist clients in securing loans and writing closing documents. (more…)

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Sex Offenders: How to Deal with a Nasty Problem

By Ellen A. Shapiro, Esq. 

The existence of sex offenders in our society is a sad reality that continues to make headlines.  Within condominium communities, this troubling issue has specific implications.  Indeed, one of the most difficult issues confronting association boards, property managers, and counsel today is whether boards should inform their members of the presence of a sex offender within the community—and if so, how to do this properly.

Fortunately, there are guidelines that can help associations take the right steps to protect everyone involved in a responsible and lawful manner. (more…)

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Need a Loan? You Can Bank on This!

By Henry A. Goodman, Esq.

We at GSL understand how important it is for many associations to secure loans. They need loans to help them make much-needed repairs for their aging buildings and facilities. In addition, loans can help associations save money during these difficult economic times. Key to finding the best loan, however, is doing business with the best banks.

Accordingly, we thought it would be helpful to let you know of banks with which our law practice has developed good working relationships through the years. Such banks allow us to represent both our clients’ interests and the banks’ and write the loan-closing documents, provided a waiver of any conflict is signed.  (more…)

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Clearing the Air: Smoking Regulations & Condos

By Henry A. Goodman, Esq.

As more studies confirm the harmful effects of smoking and secondhand smoke, the banning of cigarettes, cigars, and pipes is becoming more prevalent in common areas throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  And now, this is also becoming a major issue in condominium units.

On the one hand, smoking in your own home is lawful and specifically permitted by statute.  Unit owners who smoke tend to be stubborn about their perceived privacy rights, particularly if they are addicted and find it so hard to quit. They typically would resent being told that they have to smoke outside of their unit and even outside of the condominium property.  But what about the rights of non-smokers? (more…)

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Picture This: A Click Can Make Your Case

How many words is a picture really worth?

By: Merle Haas, Esq.

Attorneys are wordsmiths, good at making logical, compelling arguments and backing them up with legal authority. But sometimes words don’t go quite far enough. I credit a recent success as well as another strong brief to the judicious use of photographs supplied by my clients. Both cases involved satellite dishes, improperly situated. I could have filled volumes describing the strictures of the Master Deed and the placement of the offending dishes.  But not only would I have lost my audience; even worse, I would never have approached the clarity and conciseness expressed in a simple photo of the scene. (more…)

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