Mass. Legislative Activity, 2014

The Massachusetts Legislature has recently taken action on issues related to condominium law. During the past session, which ended this summer, two bills were introduced that sought to clarify or amend M.G.L. c. 183A, the current statute governing condominium law. Neither bill was enacted by both chambers (as is required in order to be signed and executed into law by the governor). Yet, both bills passed the Senate and traveled through multiple committees in the House of Representatives. These two bills therefore signal potential updates to the condo statute, provided they are both reintroduced and passed in the next session (such a possibility would likely not occur until January, after the fall elections). Below is a brief description of each bill and its respective affect on current law.

(1)   S.2316 aims to clarify language in section of M.G.L c. 183A pertaining to condominium priority liens. As the law currently stands, condo associations are entitled to a six-month priority lien on delinquent common expenses, therefore providing associations with an important advantage over mortgage lenders in legal actions to recoup overdue fees and related expenses. In recent years, however, lenders have challenged the notion that the law gives associations the right to multiple six-month priority liens. S.2316, introduced by Senator Brian Joyce, would amend the statute to clarify that the phrase “priority liens” does indeed refer to all six-month priority liens established in accordance with the law. The bill would effectively silence lenders on the subject, ending the argument that associations are limited to one six-month priority lien over delinquent common expenses.

(2)   S.602 , also introduced by Senator Joyce, features two major sections:

The first section attempts to remove contradictory language in the condo statute. M.G.L. c. 183A currently contains a provision that allows condo associations to permit unit owners to modify certain common areas, specifically limited common areas and exclusive use easements. However, the law also has another provision that requires the condo’s master deed to be amended in order to achieve the very same action.  S.602 aims to end the conflicting provisions by eliminating the amendment requirement. If passed, associations will have greater legal clarity to create or authorize certain common area rights.

The second section attempts to streamline consent requirements for amending condominium documents, such as the master deed or the declaration of trust. Currently, some condo documents require mortgagees — typically institutions like Bank of America, N.A. or CitiMortgage, Inc. — to sign off on amending these documents. In this situation, S.602 would place a burden on mortgagees to specifically object within 60 days of receiving notice from an association via first class and certified mail; otherwise, consent by mortgagees will be implied. In other words, if S.602 were to pass, condo associations would have broader ability to advance on amending their own documents, weakening the influence of mortgagees in this regard.