Written by Attorney Charlie Perkins
With deference to those who remember the old Emerson Lake and Palmer Song quoted above, and with another potential snow storm pending for Saturday, February 21, 2015, trustees, managers, unit owners, lawyers and those who are endlessly shoveling roofs and plowing roads, have collectively “had it” with the weather this winter.
Hopefully spring is right around the corner, but the problems encountered this winter will not be going away any time soon. With that in mind, we offer the following reminders to assist all of those dealing with this most memorable winter season.
1. When possible, document all areas that suffer damage from snow, ice or snow removal, and supplement this documentation with the date and time of said incident as well as pictures evidencing said damage. Unless otherwise required by contract, this report should be submitted to the board, in one document, during the spring so that repairs can be discussed and initiated with the appropriate vendors.
2. Trustees or Unit Owners should ensure that all heating and dryer vents are clear of any snow or ice depending on the language in the condominium documents which establishes the party responsible for this type of maintenance.
3. It is clear that due to the severe weather conditions this winter, we anticipate that many boards will experience a budget deficiency. In the event this does arise, we feel that transparency should be the key when addressing damage caused by the snow and ice or its removal, and the plan in place to cover the cost of these expenses.
In the short term, we recommend that boards develop a plan to pay vendors for any snow related expenses. If the current budget does not have enough funds in place to cover these expenses, be advised that borrowing from the working capital is possible. We are also aware that some boards may choose to borrow from another line item in their budget or in certain situations borrow from their reserve accounts. However, we advise that prior to borrowing any funds, the board should discuss a specific plan to repay these loans. Please note that special assessments are not collectible as a priority lien pursuant to M.G.L. c. 183A and we advise that this type of assessment be avoided when possible.
Boards should consider borrowing funds from a bank, if possible, and/or raising the funds needed by creating a budget amendment over the remaining part of this fiscal year. We recommend that in the event this does occur, the board should notify unit owners as soon as possible.
4. If you are a unit owner, we ask that you treat the professionals you contact for any repair or snow removal requests with the utmost courtesy. Please keep in mind that vendors may be dealing with hundreds of e-mails or telephone calls on a daily basis and they need their sleep too.
5. Please keep off the roads when possible and contact your respective associations regarding snow removal policies. Perkins & Anctil, P.C. remains committed to assisting our clients during this difficult winter season. Please feel free to contact our office so that we can assist you with any questions or concerns that may arise.