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The following was written by C. Scott Canady, originally posted the Community Associations Institute Advocacy Blog (www.advocacy.caionline.org/) and is recommended reading by Attorney Charlie Perkins:

Anyone who has lived in or worked with community associations knows that planning and preparation for natural disasters matters. That is why it is encouraging to see policymakers in Washington, D.C., take steps to make disaster recovery less complicated for common interest communities.

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The following was written by Dawn Bauman, Senior Vice President, Government & Public Affairs at the Community Associations Institute and is recommended reading by our Senior Partner Charlie Perkins: 

One of the challenging factors of the COVID-19 pandemic is the economic impact on individual residents in community associations. As homeowners become unable to fulfill their financial obligation of paying assessments, they will require direct access to resources that can provide relief.

The American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress and signed into law on March 11 includes the Homeowner Assistance Fund to help Americans avoid foreclosure and stay in their homes. CAI is very pleased to report that our advocacy efforts have paid off, as homeowners association assessments fall under eligible housing expenses when applying for the fund.

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Summary by: Jessica E. Molignano, Esq.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 State of Emergency in Massachusetts. Although it has certainly been a long year, recent milestones are indicating that we are taking positives steps towards the “new normal.” The purpose of this article is to provide a summary of recent changes, such as the progression in the state’s reopening plan and recently released CDC guidelines for those who are fully vaccinated.

 

Re-Opening Massachusetts

With public health metrics continuing to trend in a positive direction, the Baker-Polito Administration have announced plans for continued reopening.

Beginning on March 1, 2021, the Commonwealth returned to Step 2 of Phase III, pursuant to the four-phased plan to reopen the economy released by the Baker-Polito Administration in May, 2020.

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By:  Scott J. Eriksen, Esq.

Once again, we want to thank all of you who took the time to participate in our recent survey regarding the impact of COVID-19 at your communities. This year has been incredibly challenging as the pandemic has forced all of us – including community associations and managers – to change the way we operate.  It is evident that the health and safety of residents has been the foremost thought of our community association clients and managers this year, and that guiding principle is reflected in the responses that we received from all of you. We have been impressed with the determined efforts that our board and manager contacts have demonstrated, in face of the hurdles imposed by COVID, to keep their communities operating, to make necessary repairs, and to maintain community spirit and involvement. 

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Summary by: Jessica E. Molignano, Esq.

Massachusetts’ temporary moratorium on non-essential evictions and foreclosures established by Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, an Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency, expired on October 17, 2020. However, since the expiration, many landlords and tenants alike remain unsure of how to maneuver through the evictions process. The purpose of this article is to provide some clarity on this process.

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By Kimberly A. Alley, Esq.

The first doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. So – what happens now at work? Are employees required to vaccinate? What if a co-worker refuses to vaccinate? What if my religion prohibits vaccinations? In response to these and other looming questions, the federal government recently issued guidance and gave the green light for employers to require immunization for most workers. Employers may also require proof that an employee was vaccinated.

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Summary by: David R. Chenelle, Esq.

The short answer is “No”, and was answered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Massachusetts. 

The facts of this case began in 2003 when Kimmy Jackson (“Jackson”) bought her condominium unit.  A few years after her purchase her financial troubles began, resulting in the foreclosure of her unit in 2008.  After filing several bankruptcy petitions and complaints against various lenders and servicers, and eventually getting her unit deeded back to her, Jackson now has one case pending in the First Circuit Court of Appeals and one that has just been resolved.  It is the second of these two which is the subject of this article.

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The following is from an email received by Attorney Perkins from the Community Associations Institute Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee:

Please help the Massachusetts Community Associations Institute Legislative Action Committee get a bill (H. 4605) that provides protection for condominium unit owners passed before the end of the legislative sessions on December 31, 2020

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The year 2020 has been, and likely will forever be, defined by the global pandemic that has impacted all of us in some way over the past nine months. The pandemic has taken (and, as of this writing, continues to take) a severe toll on human life, activity and productivity. There is a light at the end of the tunnel now: as this is being written, three strong vaccine candidates appear near production, and treatment has come a long way since March.

Unfortunately, we are not yet out of the woods, though, and as we look back and forward, we've been thinking about the impact that COVID-19 has had on our community association clients this year. How many communities closed (and perhaps have not yet reopened) common amenities, were unable to host meetings or social functions, or had to shut-down or delay planned repairs or other work. In a lot of ways, COVID-19 has brought about changes that we expect will linger beyond the virus: electronic meetings, voting by ballot, increased common area sanitation measures, etc.

In this latest installment of our survey series, we would like to hear from all of you about how COVID-19 has impacted your communities. In the past, we've been very impressed with the level of participation in these surveys, and hope that you will once again take the time to provide your input on this session's important topic. For almost all of this, navigating the challenges associated with the pandemic has felt like sailing in uncharted water, but we've all learned lessons from this and we hope that we can use this information to share some of the best practices for how to get through the coming months and how to plan for the future.

Thank you in advance for your participation!

To take the survey, navigate to the URL below:

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07ehf34q5ykhp28rxc/a01fbkhxjdnrd/greeting

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Perkins & Anctil, P.C. is very pleased to announce the newest member of its legal team, Jessica Molignano, Esq.

Jessica is a graduate of Merrimack College and Massachusetts School of Law, and brings considerable and diverse experience to her role as a member of our Condominium, Litigation and Real Estate practice team. Her prior professional roles include serving as in-house attorney for American Tower and, previously, an Assistant Vice President of Strategy and Planning at Merrimack College, in North Andover, Massachusetts. Jessica was also previously an adjunct faculty member at Merrimack College’s Girard School of Business and School of Health Sciences. Her experience includes a considerable background in operations, project management and development, and property management. She also previously interned with the Massachusetts Housing Court in Worcester.

Jessica is a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Greater Lawrence Family Health Center, Business Leaders Network and serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Giving Tree. 

We are honored to have Jessica join us, and believe she will be a considerable asset to all our clients. 

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Senior Partner Charlie Perkins would like readers to know the Community Associations Institute’s thoughts on dealing with the Coronavirus so he has forwarded the article below by Daniel Brannigan, CAI’s Director of Publishing and Managing Editor of Common Ground Magazine:

The COVID-19 pandemic, resulting economic recession, protests for racial and cultural equality, an incredibly divisive election cycle, wildfires, hurricanes, and more have made 2020 one of the most difficult and stressful years ever.

For community association board members and managers, all of these events have made a tough job even tougher. Homeowners have put more pressure than usual on community association leadership, questioning every decision, and voicing their complaints and frustrations as they spend more time at home.

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Perkins & Anctil thanks all veterans for their service to our country. We recognize the sacrifices made by you and your families.

Thank you!

 

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Summary by: Robert W. Anctil, Esq.
On Monday, October 12, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker announced a $171 million package of
programs which will support tenants and landlords facing financial challenges caused by the
COVD-19 pandemic. The main goal is to keep tenants in their homes while also supporting the
ongoing expenses for landlords. The Eviction Diversion Initiative comes in anticipation of, and in
preparation for, the end of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium which expired on October 17,
2020.

 

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COVID-19 has altered our daily routines in many ways. It has also changed the way community associations attend to certain matters such as conducting meetings, campaigning and voting. Necessity has prompted a change in operations, and now Zoom™ meetings, as well as the use of designated proxies and electronic voting are becoming more common. Support for these platforms and alternative operations is growing, as evidenced by a recent decision of the Suffolk Superior Court.
Prior to the pandemic, a condominium in greater Boston chose to utilize electronic voting as an alternative to paper ballots for the election of its board members. Utilizing a link to an online ballot sent by e-mail or a tablet provided in the lobby of the condominium and at the annual meeting itself, this association experienced an unprecedented rate of participation at its annual meeting.

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Senior Partner Charlie Perkins was interested in the paradoxes laid out in a recent CAI blog post. In it, the author points out that, while we are coping with a crippling pandemic and economic recession, we have also seen double digit increases in home sales and mortgage lending. Theories abound as to why this may be but CAI is focused on potential changes to federal mortgage rules resulting from the increase. In one instance, CAI would like to preserve safety regulations that allow lenders to verify a potential borrower’s ability to afford community association fees; and in another, CAI would like to do away with certain Federal Housing Authority-required questionnaires and thereby limit association liability when gathering information. The Community Associations Institute urges FHA and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to “partner” with community associations in order to assist residents in keeping their homes. To read the entire blog post, click over to: https://advocacy.caionline.org/

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Her biographical blurb is as follows: “I bring 20 years of experience in Debt Collection and Creditor’s Rights. Prior to joining Perkins & Anctil, I worked for the top 3 Debt Collection Law Firms in Massachusetts working litigation matters for the States of  Nebraska, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. I hold a Paralegal Certificate from the University of Massachusetts (Lowell).  I am a Notary Public and I am proficient in the Spanish language. I am the spouse of a United States Air Force Veteran and I live in Westminster with my husband Chris, my daughter Sofia and my son Daniel. In my spare time, I love to travel and spend time with my family, friends and my Lab named Moose.”

Welcome Maria!

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 As businesses and communities transition into phased re-openings, we know that our community associations and manager clients will have many questions surrounding what to do with amenities this season.  While nobody wants unhappy residents, boards and property managers must be mindful of the best interest of the community as a whole.  Further, those communities that do wish to open amenities such as pools, recreational facilities and clubhouses this season will need to be familiar with a host of applicable regulations and guidelines with which they must comply.
 
Join our partner Scott Eriksen this Thursday, June 18th from 2:00p.m.- 3:30p.m. for a CAI webinar about re-opening in the State of New Hampshire.  Registration is required and is available at the following website:
https://www.caine.org/nh-navigating-webinars-registration-page-6-4-20/
 
As always, we look forward to assisting you and hope you can attend this timely webinar.

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His induction into the New England Chapter of the CAI Hall of Fame came during the annual dinner and awards banquet earlier this year. While being noted for his membership on the Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee as well as for his authorship of multiple amicus briefs and frequent speaking appearances, his selection was based on his longevity in the field and his service on the prestigious College of Community Association Lawyers among other honors through the years. His legal peers have noted that he is less a business competitor and more of a model for the industry in terms of his conduct, leadership, commitment and above all, a belief in CAI’s principal goal of improving life in community associations. The article is in the June issue of Condo Media available here:

https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/mcneill/condomedia_202006/index.php#/p/38

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Chief Title Examiner Christina T. Geaney has forwarded the Land Court’s recent document entitled “Interim Procedures for the Remote Processing of Subsequent Cases & Condominium Documents” in response to a request by Perkins and Anctil to review a Master Deed amendment.  In it, she indicates the court’s efforts to address only emergency business at this time and that remote processing of condominium documents will be “Available on a very limited basis….”  We have uploaded the entire document to our website and it can be accessed by clicking "Articles" in the "Publications" section of our website.   

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The emergency regulation by MA Attorney General, Maura Healy, putting a 90-day moratorium on certain debt collections has been overturned, in part by USDC Federal Judge, D.J. Stearns, who stated in his Opinion that the measure violates the First Amendment rights of collection agencies without adding meaningful protections for consumers.

As a result of this decision, community associations and their property managers can now resume their pre COVID-19 business practices of sending out letters to their community members that are in default reminding them to pay their monthly condominium fees/costs and indicating that if delinquencies are not resolved, the account will be turned over to legal for lien enforcement action. As we all know, the payment of monthly condominium payments is the life blood that allows all associations the ability to continue to provide critical maintenance and services to all of its members. This is welcome news that will allow associations the ability to continue to enforce its rights for payments from all of its community members.

We will continue to monitor developments in this area in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and report to our clients on important changes.

If you would like to read the USDC Judge’s Decision and Order, click here.

pdfDebt Collection Moratorium Reversal of Decision.pdf 

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