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Since mortgage lenders are bound to consider tax rates when figuring a borrower’s ability to repay, buyers must also consider them when house hunting. Wide variations exist from town to town and knowing where taxes are low can aid in locating the property that is best suited to a loan applicant. The median price nationwide, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, is $175,700 which means that, depending on your location within the Commonwealth, the tax bill could be below $2,000 or over $4,000 which is a difference of over $150 per month. Attorney Rob Anctil forwards this article with more information: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/bbj_research_alert/2015/01/massachusetts-property-tax-rates-in-2015-by-town.html

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The staff of Perkins & Anctil met for a night of bowling, dining and fun at King’s in Burlington. The team building event involved two strings of candlepins, pizza, bruschetta and a little cocktailing. The high score was out up by our Director of Finance, Peter Bogosian whose experience as a youth in Midwest league play left the rest of the staff in his wake. Thanks to all of our coworkers for joining us for a fun night!

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Written by Staff Attorneys at P&A

Perkins & Anctil, P.C. is happy to announce good news for condominium associations throughout the Commonwealth.

On March 29, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision in the case of Drummer Boy Homes Association, Inc. v. Carolyn P. Britton. In the long-awaited decision, the SJC reversed the lower court’s ruling and held that the Massachusetts Condominium Act (M.G.L. c. 183A) authorizes condominium associations to establish “multiple contemporaneous priority liens on a condominium unit by filing successive legal actions to collect unpaid” common expenses. Said differently, the Court’s decision permits associations to “roll liens,” which had been the standard practice for nearly two decades and is a crucial tool for ensuring that associations are able to recover a maximum amount of unpaid assessments.

The SJC’s decision will benefit all of our association clients by:

  • Facilitating prompt and full payment of all priority amounts from first mortgage holders;
  • Enhancing flexibility of resolution by allowing associations to enter into extended payment plans without jeopardizing priority recovery;
  • Potentially reducing the number of foreclosure actions and unit turnover; and,
  • Eliminating “gaps” in recovery caused by the inherent delays under the statutory and court process.

In summary, the SJC’s decision will benefit all associations by optimizing their ability to collect unpaid assessments and thus strengthen and maintain financially sound communities. We are pleased to have been a part of this important decision as co-authors of the Community Association Institute (CAI) amicus brief filed with the Court.

A copy of the complete decision is available by emailing Sanford.

Should you have any questions about the decision, or about pending cases or future actions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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The United States First Circuit Court of Appeals is considering the forgiveness of a Duxbury man’s student loan debt of over $200,000 he borrowed to pay the college tuition for his children. He is seeking bankruptcy relief since he lost his job and, according to his lawyers, his ability to repay the debt despite a 15 year failed job search, is extremely limited. While the borrower’s request was denied in US Bankruptcy Court because it was not considered an undue hardship, the First Circuit Court of Appeals is now considering his arguments. It is generally a rare occurrence for the Bankruptcy Court to forgive student loan debt but some judges have begun to recognize the scale of the problem, including U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Bailey who told Murphy during a 2013 hearing, “I’m darn near in that situation myself.” The fear of forgiving such a debt in the past was that those who are merely temporarily unable to repay would take advantage of the ruling. Attorney David R. Chenelle forwards this Boston Globe article with more information: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/03/13/bankrupt-dad-battles-get-student-loan-debt-forgiven/cYGo9MeCZ5hj1oPdCqezbO/story.html?s_campaign=8315

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The team at Perkins & Anctil would like to extend our sympathy and support to those affected by the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels. We are pleased to see the demonstrations of solidarity taking place in the Place de la Bourse and that the people of that city are resilient and will not allow these events to defeat them in their pursuit of happiness.

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Senior Partner Charlie Perkins saw this appeal for action from the Community Associations Institute Government Affairs Department:

On March 3rd, US Representatives Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Helping Our Middle-Income Earners (HOME) Act, H. R. 4696. This bill allows for an income tax deduction for homeowners association assessments and fees.

Specifically, the bill would allow homeowners in community associations – condominiums, housing cooperatives and homeowners associations – who earn $115,000 or less in annual income, to deduct up to $5,000 of their association fees and assessments from their federal tax liability.

Contact your Representative today and urge them to co-sponsor the HOME Act!

“The HOME Act recognizes that millions of middle class homeowners are struggling to keep up with rising household expenses like child care, college tuition, health care, mortgage and community assessments,” Eshoo said. “The Home Act can go a long way by providing relief from this tax burden on millions of middle class families.”

This bill recognizes the financial inequity facing homeowners in a community association as they pay property taxes and community assessments but receive many municipal services from their community association not the municipality. The HOME Act would lighten the financial burden of homeowners and make homeownership more affordable and attainable for more families.

If you need additional information about this issue, please contact us anytime at government@caionline.org or (888) 224-4321.

Thank you!

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South Boston appears to be the city’s epicenter for the trend in converting churches to condominiums. Saints Peter and Paul Church, an 1844 Gothic Revival style example designed by architect Gridley Bryant is among the older buildings undergoing the change and houses 36 units. Saint Augustine’s Church which is also located in the now-stylish neighborhood was designed by architect Patrick Charles Keely, will house 29 condominium units, and was built in the High Victorian Gothic style which is far more ornate than Saints Peter and Paul. Boston’s nearby South End is the site of Holy Trinity German Church which is a 33 unit condominium. This was constructed in 1874 in the Gothic Revival style and will feature a very modern-looking glass enclosed addition. Other conversions have recently taken place in Ipswich at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, a 2 unit condo built in 1911 and in Watertown at Saint Theresa which houses 11 units in the church with more in the rectory next door.

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A meeting to be held by the City Council and scheduled for Monday, March 14 on the 5th floor of City Hall at 4pm will be the forum for discussing a bill that would limit landlords’ ability to raise rent by more than 5% without engaging in mediation. Nearly all types of rented space, including condominiums, will be regulated under the policy and appears to some to be a return to city administered rent control – a program that was repealed by voters in 1994. If you have an interest or property in Boston, please feel free to attend and have your opinions heard.

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Anna Alaburda, a member of the 2007 graduating class of Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, is still underemployed and is blaming the school in the form of a lawsuit. Citing false claims of employment rates for graduates, Ms. Alaburda says she would not have applied to or attended the school if she had known the truth about her chances of getting a job. The American Bar Association is aware of many similar legal cases, almost all of which have been dismissed, but it is improving its accuracy in reporting employment numbers when ranking law schools. Judge Joel M. Patterson, unlike almost all other judges sitting before such suits, has allowed the matter to go forward in order to decide whether the school’s employment claims caused financial harm. Attorney Rob Anctil forwards this New York Times article with more information: <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/07/business/dealbook/court-to-hear-suit-accusing-law-school-of-inflating-job-data.html?emc=eta1&_r=0

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The sporting goods retailer found itself with $10B in liabilities but only $1B in assets in January so has chosen to attempt to restructure its debt.  Competition from online shopping is to blame, say company spokespeople, putting Sports Authority in a similar situation as Radio Shack and many others.  The Englewood, CO based entity missed a $20M coupon payment to creditors which triggered the filing, during which process the company will decide whether to restructure or sell assets. Bankruptcy Attorney David R. Chenelle forwards this Reuters article with more information: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-sportsauthority-bankruptcy-idUSKCN0W416O

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Written By: Scott J. Eriksen, Esq.

The Game of Thrones fans among you will have heard the ominous words of House Stark, “Winter is Coming,” used to warn against the imminent cold and precipitation of everyone’s favorite season. Just as they do in George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy series, these words herald an unpleasant truth for many community associations and managers alike: winter will bring bitter, freezing temperatures, ice and snow. Yet as all managers and boards know, it is the water associated with winter that has proven to be the real enemy to owners across the Northeast, particularly during last year’s unprecedented snowfalls.

Guarding against this winter, and the water, is of paramount importance to all our clients, and one area of particular vulnerability is abandoned or vacated units. Forsaken or neglected units, which may be owned by banks, often present a considerable understated threat to communities. In associations where units are conjoined or attached, freezing temperatures can burst pipes and sprinkler lines in areas adjacent to these empty units. The damage from these bursts is seldom confined to the empty unit alone, typically permeating to other units or common areas.

It is important that associations and managers identify and properly stabilize these units to avoid water damage, but access can be tricky and laden with traps for the unwary. Can the association or agent simply barge in and turn on the heat? What if the owner returns and claims (truthfully or not) that property is missing from the unit? What if that property is irreplaceable – a family member’s Medal of Honor, priceless artwork or other heirlooms? How can proactive associations and managers shield themselves from the potential liability associated with such claims?

For starters, the good news is that both the Massachusetts Condominium Act (M.G.L. c. 183A) and most condominium documents authorize associations and their agents to enter into units in order to address health and safety emergencies and to take certain preventative or remedial action. Specifically, M.G.L. c. 183A, Section 4(2) provides that “[t]he organization of unit owners, its agent or agents shall have access to each unit from time to time during reasonable hours for the maintenance, repair or replacement of any of the common areas and facilities therein or accessible therefrom or for making emergency repairs therein necessary to prevent damage to the common areas and facilities or to another unit or units...” In the face of quickly dropping temperatures, we advise clients that they may have the immediate authority to enter a unit and take necessary remedial action under the terms of the documents and applicable law.

However, very rarely if ever will the access provisions in the governing documents fully protect an association from potential claims by the unit owner related to trespass, damage to personal property or theft. The most conservative course of action to protect oneself against such claims would be to obtain a court order to enter and act. Unfortunately, however, court action is also likely be more costly and less expedient than proceeding in reliance on the provisions of the condominium documents.

If an association does not elect to obtain a court order, and intends to rely on the provisions of its documents and applicable law, we strongly suggest that the association comply with the following procedure:

  1. Send notice. The first step in the process, except perhaps in extreme emergencies, should be to send notice to the owner/bank of the intended access/preventative work. To the extent that the governing documents call for a specific time period, consider whether this is realistic in light of the threat of water damage and modify the notice as necessary.
  2. Obtain a locksmith. This will prevent damage to the unit upon entering and allow you to secure the unit afterwards, which is something that should also be done.
  3. Obtain a police detail or private security guard. An objective, third-party individual will be will be extremely valuable if the unit owner attempts to claim that the unit or their belongings were damaged or are missing. Be sure the “guard” is there to witness the entire event from opening the unit to securing it upon completion. Be sure that they see everyone entering and exiting the unit and whether or not they are carrying anything in the process. Be sure that they know you will require an affidavit, after-the-fact, stating that they were there, witnessed the entire event and can verify that nothing was damaged or taken during the process.
  4. Bring a camera. Video is best, but photographs are an acceptable alternative. Use the camera to create evidence of the condition of the unit as you found it and as you left it. Use the camera only on areas visible in plain sight within the unit and do not release the images.
  5. Minimize the personnel involved. Beyond property management and/or board members and the “guard,” limit the people involved to those necessary for performance of the required work. Be sure that any vendors document their own invoices well and enter, perform services and exit as efficiently as possible.

We realize that taking all of these steps requires time, effort and expense, and that the association may be restricted in light of emergency situations. However, we believe these steps are minimal compared with the time, effort and expense of dealing with a potential claim.

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Rhonda brings 20 years of real estate conveyancing experience to the Perkins & Anctil Real Estate Team. An alumna of Massachusetts School of Law, Rhonda will head the firm’s conveyancing group and will represent lenders, buyers, sellers, and developers in all types of residential and commercial transactions. Her work experience before coming to Perkins & Anctil was with mid-sized firms on the North Shore and in southern New Hampshire. She most recently functioned as a sole practitioner in Andover. Rhonda has also worked as an adjunct instructor of real estate law at Northern Essex Community College. She is a member of the Massachusetts Real Estate Bar Association, Greater Lawrence Bar Association and the Northeast Association of Realtors. We are proud to have Rhonda on board and believe she will be a considerable asset to all our clients.

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Attorney Charlie Perkins wanted to make readers aware of the Community Associations Institute’s efforts to assist in passing House Resolution 3700 regarding condominium construction permitting which passed the House February 2, 2016. It is now headed to the Senate. The CAI notice is as follows:

The changes to the FHA condominium project approval process are included in H.R. 3700, the “Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act”, bipartisan legislation authored by Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO).

CAI supports H.R. 3700 and has urged leaders of the House Financial Services Committee to bring the legislation to a vote in the full House of Representatives.

H.R. 3700 makes the following key changes to the existing FHA condominium project approval process—

  • FHA is required to revise condominium recertification requirements so that recertification is substantially less burdensome than initial project approval. FHA is required to consider lengthening the time of certifications and revising recertification procedures to be information updates rather than resubmitting the project for approval.
  • HUD field offices may, at the request of the submitting party, evaluate and grant exemptions to commercial space limitations and may take into consideration factors such as the number of housing units in a project as well as local economic conditions when evaluating exemption requests.
  • FHA is required to clarify permissible owner occupancy percentages for primary and secondary residences for project approval. If FHA fails to issue the required clarification within 90 days of enactment into law, the owner occupancy percentage for primary and secondary residences is established at 35 percent. FHA may establish different owner occupancy percentages based on local economic conditions.
  • FHA is required to follow Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines concerning transfer fees for condominium project approval and mortgage insurance.
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Estimates by the Boston Globe are that tax bills will increase by 4% or $206 on average in the coming quarters. Analysts point to the rising costs of municipal services as the reason, however, increasing real estate values and decreasing state aid to towns and cities are also contributing. Others suggest uncontrolled spending is responsible and must be reduced in order to maintain stable tax rates. The Globe piece contains additional graphics and tables with a great deal of detail. Real Estate Attorney Rob Anctil forwards the article with more information: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/01/18/mass-homeowners-billed-more-property-taxes-average-this-year/I7Qr7Hp3mhn3av1gaoQUgP/story.html?s_campaign=8315

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Feeling safe in your workplace has never been more important than it is today. Your safety is a high priority for Perkins & Anctil. Please join Rob Anctil and Rick Dunn of Perkins & Anctil and Deb Bodnar of Mortgage Network for a complimentary real estate agent safety class and learn how to protect yourself during showings and open houses. The class will be taught by Luth’s Family Karate on Friday, April 17th from 4:00-5:30pm at Perkins & Anctil, PC. Perkins & Anctil PC is located at 6 Lyberty Way, Suite 201, Westford MA. You can RSVP to Nichole Cincotta at 978-496-2000 or Deb Bodnar at 978-399-1328.

 

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In the interest of trading knowledge and gathering opinions on various issues from community association residents, we have added a link to our first in a series of very brief surveys.  This one concerns smoking and how to regulate it.  Results will be summarized and discussed in a later blog post.  Blog readers should feel free to respond with thoughts, concerns and potential solutions to condominium and community association issues on the subject.  In order to submit a response, visit our home page and click the blue button on the left side.  Association managers and trustees should contact Scott Eriksen (seriksen@perkinslawpc.com) about any changes they may wish to make to their governing documents. Add a comment
The University of New Hampshire Law School has initiated the Daniel Webster Scholar Honors Program, launched in 2005, as a way of giving students experience they otherwise would have to obtain on-the-job.  The goal of being ready to practice law, and to litigate, upon graduation is now a possibility given the success of the program which was profiled in an Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System study to be released this month.  This is not the only such program in the country, although it is one of the more well established.  Prior to such honors programs, students were less likely to have a handle on day to day legal job challenges and to require more supervision in order to reach acceptable levels of competency.  At Perkins & Anctil we have consistently hired law school students during their summer breaks.   We feel that this provides them with an opportunity to gain practical experience.  Managing Partner Rob Anctil forwards this Wall Street Journal Article with additional information:  http://www.wsj.com/article_email/law-school-program-emphasizes-practical-skills-1420419113-lMyQjAxMTE1MDEzMjYxNzIwWj Add a comment
Most buyers will opt to hire a home inspector who will examine all aspects of building maintenance and safety prior to purchase.  There are no guarantees that he or she will find all potential problems, but it is a worthwhile step to take before signing on the dotted line.  For those who are willing to get a little dirty and take on a challenge before signing the P&S agreement, Closing Attorney Rick Dunn recommends the following link with information on what elements to look out for during the house hunting process: http://www.newsday.com/classifieds/real-estate/tips-for-home-buyers-what-a-home-inspector-looks-for-1.9899810?sf7265462=1 Add a comment
Entrepreneurs seeking to enter the alternative legal service industry have been stymied in some states by fines and penalties imposed by the courts at the behest of the legal community.  Given that non-lawyer legal representation by companies such as LegalZoom and others can be the only affordable way for individuals to start a company, resolve family issues or to achieve regulatory compliance, to give some examples, it is noteworthy that many states report opposition to what is called “Unauthorized Practice” comes from those who stand to suffer from the competition.  Attorney Rob Anctil believes all should be welcome to weigh the scales of justice and forwards this Wall Street Journal article as food for thought:  http://www.wsj.com/news/article_email/SB10758858174227614679104580412102409160076-lMyQjAxMTA1NzI1OTgyODk1Wj?mod=wsj_share_email Add a comment

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