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Membership of the Community Associations Institute is gathering in San Francisco this week to attend sessions on ethics, fair debt collection, fair housing, employment and numerous other topics.  Discussions are expected to be national in scope but also applicable to regional practitioners such as Perkins & Anctil.  The four day event will take place at the Westin St. Francis in Union Square, just between the Nob Hill and SOMA (South of Market) neighborhoods. Add a comment
New England as a region is not as prone to the events many would consider disasters as some other parts of the country but we do have our share, including hurricanes, fires and the occasional earthquake.  Senior Partner Charlie Perkins notes that while these are certainly things to prepare for, it is the mundane water leak that is most likely to disrupt the lives of community association dwellers.  Quoted in Mike Odenthal’s column in the December issue of New England Condominium (www.newenglandcondo.com), Charlie reminds trustees, unit owners and managers that a plan that reflects the building(s)’ character, location and safety concerns is a must for all associations.  Contents should include phone numbers for emergency services, association managers, trusted repair professionals, insurance providers and even the Red Cross in severely critical situations, several of which he has seen in his time serving his community association clients.  As with most of our previous posts concerning Charlie’s condominium thoughts, communication comes up as a vital aspect of the success and well-being of any association.  He recommends creating a book containing all information and procedures as well as holding a special meeting of unit owners to demonstrate the plan and carry out a trial run. Add a comment
In the United States, most people have a pretty clear idea of what a condominium is but unit owners travelling outside the country who are interested in learning about condominium living will need some new vocabulary.  For instance, Australian and Canadian (Except for the Quebecois, of course, who say copropriété divise or divided co-property) owners refer to their form of condominium ownership as “strata title”.  This is a reference to multiple levels, typically of an urban apartment-style building the term first applied to but now denotes single and two story associations in small towns and suburbs. The name will also apply in parts of Asia, Africa, Oceania and even the Middle East.  Other names for condominiums include commonhold in the UK, defined property in Spanish speaking regions and sectional title in South Africa. Add a comment
Two condominium clients have recently banned smoking both in common areas as well as inside individual units.  The change is a timely one, given the appearance in the current issue of Condo Media of an article on the subject that takes a national scope in addressing the matter.  According to the article, barring a supermajority or such higher percentage as may be required under the governing documents, an association cannot ban in-unit smoking in Massachusetts yet.  However, the Commonwealth and other states are considering a ban on smoking in all multifamily residences just as they have in public spaces and work places.  This would hinge on a determination that smoking is a nuisance and or a threat to public health.  In that case, condominium documents with a nuisance provision may be able to prohibit all smoking.  Readers who are members of the Community Associations Institute can view the article here: http://www.caine.org/MediaMagazine/      Non Members can obtain a copy by emailing sjohnson@perkinslawpc.com Add a comment
Those seeking to buy a home and obtain a mortgage tend to spend much more time locating the house and less time deciding on a lender.  The complexity of the process may be to blame so the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau and the Federal Housing Finance Agency have created an online “Owning a Home Toolkit.”  The primary feature of this government assistance program is the rate checking tool which allows borrowers to easily compare rates and lenders-an activity that sometimes gets neglected.  Closing Attorney Rick Dunn saw this webpage with links to the toolkit:  http://www.inman.com/2015/01/13/uncle-sam-wants-you-to-shop-for-a-mortgage/ Add a comment
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the rates for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages have fallen well below 4% as of Tuesday, January 6, 2015.  The decrease is said to be linked to falling oil prices and to declining treasury yields, a mixed blessing that may benefit home buyers given that the real estate market hinges on increased buying power. Real Estate Attorney Rob Anctil forwards this article as illustration: http://blogs.wsj.com/totalreturn/2015/01/06/mortgage-rates-back-at-2013-lows/?mod=trending_now_5#&mod=wsj_valettop_email Add a comment
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The end of the legislative session for the Year 2014 unfortunately did not provide the holiday gift most associations wished for, legislation that would have overturned the case of Drummer Boy Homes Association, Inc. v. Britton and reinstated rolling liens.

This matter will be one of the issues that the CAI Legislative Action Committee faces in the next legislative session. However, Senate Bill 602 was approved by the House of Representatives and signed by Governor Patrick as one of his last acts prior to leaving office.

Senate Bill 602 clarified an ambiguity in Section 5 of M.G.L. c. 183A regarding limited common area grants and easements. The section also adopted an overall negative posting requirement for any amendment required to the Master Deed, Declaration of Trust or Bylaws as it applies to mortgagees holding mortgages on units within a condominium whose consent maybe required. Negative posting is a useful mechanism to address situations where mortgage holder approval of an amendment may be necessary. This provision now states that if the association gives notice to mortgage holders and they do not object within sixty (60) days, then such failure to act will be deemed a consent.

Finally, although a request for further appellate review from the Appeals Court to the Supreme Judicial Court has been made by the condominium association regarding Drummer Boy, action on the appeal is not expected until the first week in February 2015.

We will continue to keep you apprized of all developments with respect to this matter as the session in the Supreme Judicial Court opens a new year.

 

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In recent years, interest-only loans earned a reputation as products that contributed to market volatility and the mortgage crisis of 2008.  These days, however, they are becoming more well regarded by economists as lenders began requiring of customers a higher than average credit score (upwards of 720) and a larger than average down payment (over 30%).  Also, the products are being offered mainly to those seeking jumbo loans rather than the average home buyer.  A Wall Street Journal Article forwarded by Attorney Rob Anctil explains in detail and is available here: http://www.wsj.com/articles/interest-only-loans-set-the-bar-high-1420567670 Add a comment
The recent dip in home heating oil prices resulting from the slowing global economy is expected to benefit borrowers.  Long term T-bills also decline under such circumstances and are a bellwether for the mortgage industry, suggesting tentative buyers reexamine their purchase and financing options.  Per the article, Closing Attorney Rick Dunn notes that rates should approach the lows seen in 2012-13.  He forwards this article as illustration:  http://www.cbsnews.com/news/another-upside-to-oils-slide-lower-mortgage-rates/ Add a comment
Wednesday’s seminar featuring real estate developer Dave Guthrie, marketing and sales consultant Tom Skahen and Princeton Properties legal counsel Jeff Brown was well received by attendees.  The audience of 65 people filled the room and consisted of real estate agents, lenders and other industry professionals who provided positive feedback regarding the topics, presentations as well as the noontime meal prepared by staff at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center.  Questions and answers were followed by energetic discourse among audience members over lunch.  Perkins & Anctil hopes to see another capacity crowd on April 16th, 2015 when we present a round table discussion on the topics of home financing, purchase and sale agreements, condominiums, homeowner’s insurance, title insurance and home staging. Add a comment
In light of the Canadian Express now arriving in the region, the Perkins & Anctil Real Estate Team would like to offer suggestions to buyers for properties in any of the locations listed in the attached article from the Huffington Post.  We were surprised to see certain of the cities listed as sunny vacation spots but given the subzero temperatures here in New England, might be willing to give any of them a visit.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathleen-peddicord/best-property-markets_b_6424808.html Add a comment
With increasing instability in the jumbo mortgage market, experts are recommending quick action.  The Fed has suggested jumbo rates will go up in 2015 but as of yet, they remain near their lowest in years, prompting the Wall Street Journal to post an article with ideas for smoothing the application process.  Their thoughts include obtaining pre-approval, increasing the down-payment, “scouring the market” for lower rates and fees, as well as a few others.  Closing Attorney Rob Anctil has forwarded this article by way of illustration:  http://www.wsj.com/articles/tips-to-get-the-best-jumbo-rates-1419959688 Add a comment
The building at 99-105 Broad Street now houses upscale condominiums but has served a number of other purposes since its construction c. 1857.  Built for William H. Boardman, a third generation Boston merchant, to house merchandise acquired in overseas trade, the rare pre-Civil War granite and brick edifice with 5 story façade was also home to, among many others, J. Gibson & Son Liquor Distributors, Pray & Hayes Grocers, Richards Publishing Co., Dexter Bros. Paints and Howe & French, Inc., dealers in chemicals, laboratory supplies, waxes and drugs.   It is fortunate to have survived the Great Boston Fire of 1872 which burned 65 acres nearby to the south and west.  The building was recently enlarged to nine stories and is now known as the Broadluxe Condominium, a conversion that took place in 2008.  Several units are currently for sale. Add a comment

Perkins & Anctil is hosting a seminar for those interested in learning about alternative development and community association choices that are becoming more readily available in our region.  Concepts such as seasonal neighborhoods and active adult communities, among others, will be discussed.  Industry professionals are scheduled to present their thoughts at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center starting at 9am.  Please note that sign up is required and that Lunch is complimentary.  See below for more information:

Succeed in a Competitive Housing Market!

Hot Trends in Real Estate January 7, 2015

Topics: Seasonal Neighborhoods Active Adult Communities Rental Market

Wed., Jan 7, 2015 9:00 am to 11:30 am Lunch will be served

At: Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center 219 Littleton Road Westford, MA 01886 978-692-8200

THIS EVENT IS PROUDLY SPONSORED BY: Perkins & Anctil PC 6 Lyberty Way, Suite 201 Westford, Massachusetts 01886 www.perkinslawpc.com

Tel:  978-496-2000 Fax: 978-496-2002

Join Our Mailing List! This is Your Chance To:

* Hear from some of the industry's top professionals * Gain knowledge about how these experts differentiate  their product in an aggressive housing market * Understand how you can offer exciting solutions for your clients

Please be our guest and attend this valuable seminar. *  Do you have clients looking for a seasonal resort close to home? *  Do you have clients that are empty nesters seeking to downsize? *  Do you have clients asking, should I buy or rent? Have these questions and more answered by the following industry leaders:

Our Speakers: Seasonal Neighborhoods David Guthrie, President Wescon, Inc. Active Adult Communities Tom Skahen, Founder & Partner, Primetime Communities Princeton Properties Management, Inc. Jeff Brown, General Counsel Princeton Properties Who Should Attend? • Real Estate Brokers and Agents • Lending Professionals • Real Estate Attorneys, Paralegals, and other Industry Professionals

Please register today to reserve your seat at this valuable seminar by contacting ncincotta@perkinslawpc.com or calling Nichole Cincotta at 978-496-2000.

We hope to see you there!

Robert W. Anctil, Esq., ranctil@perkinslawpc.com Fredrick J. Dunn, Esq., fdunn@perkinslawpc.com

COMPLIMENTARY LUNCH SERVED AT 11:30 am

DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY!  

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Congress has approved an extension of the Act that, among other things, allows those going through foreclosure or a short sale of real estate to avoid paying federal income tax on forgiven debt.  This is expected to have a stabilizing effect on the housing market.  Closing attorney Rick Dunn welcomes the positive news as a benefit to the real estate industry and a chance to avoid the “Fiscal Cliff”.  Borrowers can read more at http://ceb.com/lawalerts/mfdr.asp Add a comment

Senior Partner Charlie Perkins forwards the article below and reiterates CAI’s concern over FHFA actions protecting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and against community associations:

GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released a statement yesterday expressing concern about state statutes that allow community associations to obtain lien priority over first mortgages for unpaid association assessments. By asking a federal court to intervene, FHFA is trying to bail out mortgage servicers that have failed to fulfill basic contractual obligations to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

"Make no mistake, FHFA is bailing out mortgage servicers that lacked the competency to meet basic contractual requirements and follow established rules of civil procedure," said Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, chief executive officer of Community Associations Institute (CAI). "By suing community associations, FHFA is trying to protect Fannie and Freddie at the expense of association homeowners. That's unfair, unconscionable and unacceptable." For years, CAI has joined with federal regulators (as well as Fannie Mae) to call on mortgage servicers to secure and maintain vacant and abandoned properties and meet their financial obligations to community associations and their homeowners. These calls and regulatory directives have been largely ignored with impunity by mortgage servicers.

"In one case, Fannie Mae’s servicers failed to respond to legal service of process and, despite mandatory notification pursuant to Nevada law, failed to appear at a foreclosure auction to protect Fannie Mae's financial interests," Skiba continued. "It says a lot about FHFA priorities that the agency now is suing to recoup Fannie Mae's losses from the pockets of community association homeowners, rather than suing servicers for breach of contract. Someone must stand up for homeowners and that’s what CAI will continue to do."

FHFA is nothing if not strategic, electing to release its statement on the heels of a lawsuit filed by the agency in federal court in Nevada. FHFA is seeking a determination that an HOA's foreclosure sale is invalid and contrary to federal law because it would extinguish Fannie Mae's property rights. However, the right of foreclosure FHFA is seeking to invalidate nationwide is permitted by law in Nevada, 21 other states and the District of Columbia.

FHFA asserts that it is compelled by law to file suit to protect Fannie Mae's and Freddie Mac's rights and to prevent taxpayers from incurring losses. Skiba said the FHFA statement "blatantly ignores" Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rights under the respective seller/servicing guides that allow these mammoth enterprises to recover losses resulting from the mismanagement of mortgage servicers. Despite a range of available remedies, FHFA has opted to sue to invalidate state priority lien statutes rather than enforcing its rights under contract.

"It's incredulous that a Federal agency would sacrifice the interests of 65 million taxpayers who live in community associations to protect the very banks all American taxpayers spent billions of dollars to bail out during the economy-shattering housing crisis," Skiba said. "And it’s shocking for FHFA to attack state laws that have been in place for more than 100 years of precedent and practice. Fact is, by paying their association assessments and protecting property values, these homeowners protect the value of lenders' assets in associations. Yet, FHFA is enabling the bad behavior of mortgage servicers who don't spend a dime to maintain and protect their own property investments."

CAI will continue to monitor FHFA's hostile actions against the right of community associations to secure priority liens on properties within their boundaries.”

Get more information on the priority lien issue, including a detailed CAI statement and a map of states with priority lien statutes. See the Nevada Supreme Court decision.

With more than 33,000 members dedicated to building better communities, CAI works in partnership with 60 chapters to provide information, education and resources to community associations and the professionals who support them. CAI’s mission is to inspire professionalism, effective leadership and responsible citizenship—ideals reflected in communities that are preferred places to call home. Visit www.caionline.org or call (888) 224-4321.

 

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Estimates of more than 500,000 drones filling U.S. skies alone have made some associations consider whether it is time to take action-either limiting the use of drones (remote control unmanned aerial vehicles) or banning them altogether.  Commercial versions are still not permitted as far as the FAA is concerned but approval is expected as soon as next year, a move that will generate interest from businesses and industries some would find surprising, including agriculture, cinema, architecture and others.  This means a unit owner or any of the array of companies doing business with a community association, including repair, delivery or security monitoring among others may be using a drone.  With that will come the possibility (or likelihood) of accidents and grievances by owners.  The December issue of Condo Media Magazine contains an article about the issue that suggests forward thinking, but avoiding rash action.  To read more, go to www.caine.org or write to Charlie Perkins for a copy at cperkins@perkinslawpc.com. Add a comment
For those who already have a mortgage with a low interest rate, it is good news that the economy continues its recovery, although the strides in value and rising interest rates expected to mark the coming year may prevent some from considering a home purchase according to Realtor.com.  However, single family home sales are expected to increase and millennials to create a majority of new households, frequently considered a precursor to home buying.  Other positive trends expected in 2015 have to do with unemployment, housing starts and foreclosures.  Closing Attorney Rick Dunn provides this article for further illustration:  http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2014/12/05/2015-year-first-time-home-buyer Add a comment

Forwarded by Senior Partner Charlie Perkins from Community Associations Institute Government Affairs:

The 113th Congress has adjourned without extending the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA). While legal authority for the TRIA program expires on December 31, 2014, Congress is not set to reconvene until January 6, 2015.

 

“CAI will continue to monitor developments on Capitol Hill and at the White House to ensure the 114th Congress takes up an extension of the TRIA program as a first order of business,” said Dawn M. Bauman, CAI’s Senior Vice President for Government Affairs. “Community associations carrying terrorism insurance coverage should consult their insurance agent to determine if their policy is impacted by Congress’ failure to act.”

 

The TRIA program was established in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, as insurance carriers withdrew from the terrorism insurance market. The TRIA program is a federal government backstop against terrorism-related property and casualty losses. The program has stabilized the market for terrorism insurance coverage, lowering premiums and increasing coverage availability.

 

CAI’s Bauman said, “As our country tragically knows too well, acts of terrorism are a real and devastating threat. The TRIA program is a proven and effective way for community associations to insure against acts of terror. Our communities require certainty in the terrorism insurance marketplace and TRIA should be extended without further delay.”

 

A 2013 federal government study demonstrated the effectiveness of the TRIA program, noting a consistent decline in terrorism insurance premiums and increased coverage capacity since 2003. Through the TRIA program, the federal government acts as a reinsurer, allowing private insurance companies to determine maximum losses in the event of a certified act of terrorism against the homeland.

 

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