Condo Unit Owners Spar Over Parking Rights in Massachusetts Land Court Case

The property interests of condo unit owners are typically defined in the Master Deed.  If legal disputes arise regarding the residents’ usage of the common areas, facilities, or parking garages of their building, the Master Deed may determine the rights of the respective parties, as in a May 14, 2018 Massachusetts real estate case.  The case involved a dispute among condominium owners over parking rights.

The plaintiffs in the case owned Unit One in a residential condominium containing three units.  The plaintiffs filed a complaint in the Massachusetts Land Court, seeking a declaration that they have rights to the exclusive use of two and one-half parking spaces within the condominium’s common area.  The defendants owned Unit Two in the condominium.  The defendants argued that, in accordance with the original Master Deed and Unit deeds, each unit has the right to the exclusive use of only one parking space.

In determining the rights of the parties, the land court reviewed real estate documents, including the Master Deed.  The Master Deed provided that each unit in the condominium shall have an appurtenant right to the exclusive use of one parking space to be either assigned to each unit by written designation in the initial Unit Deed for each unit, or if not assigned in the initial Unit Deed, to be assigned by the Condominium Trust.  However, none of the initial deeds in the condominium actually included an assignment of a parking space.

In 1987, the Trustees of the condominium, with the agreement of the unit owners, executed a Parking Designation that provided that the owner of Unit 1 is entitled to the exclusive use of two parking spaces, while the owners of Units 2 and 3 have the exclusive use of one parking space.  The land court concluded, however, that the Parking Designation did not validly amend the Master Deed because it was not recorded within six months of its execution, as required by its own terms.

The plaintiffs next argued that their parking spaces were transferred to them by the owner of Unit Three in a written assignment.  In addressing the plaintiffs’ argument, the land court first considered the validity of an Amendment of Master Deed executed in 2000, which purported to allow unit owners to transfer their assigned parking space to any other unit owner.  The court found that the Amendment was void because it conflicted with the condominium enabling statute by essentially delegating to the unit owners the Trustees’ powers to grant or designate the right of use of the common areas and facilities. Since the assignment depended on the authority provided by the invalid 2000 Amendment, the court ruled that the assignment was ineffective to transfer one-half of Unit Three’s parking rights to the plaintiffs as a matter of law.  Accordingly, the court ruled that the plaintiffs only had the right to one parking space.

The law firm of Pulgini & Norton handles real estate and land use issues for residential property owners.  Our experienced Massachusetts attorneys can guide individuals through home sales and purchases, mortgage re-financing, property improvements, and more.  Arrange your free consultation with a skilled real estate lawyer by calling our office at (781) 843-2200 or contacting us online.

More Blog Posts:

Massachusetts Homeowners Operating Commercial Dog Breeding Business Found Incompatible with Deed Restrictions, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published January 9, 2017

Massachusetts Homeowners Seek Declaration That Road Bordering Their Property Is Public Way, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published March 27, 2018

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