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Massachusetts Condo Owners Take Legal Action to Halt Developer’s Plan for Expansion

The legal rights of Massachusetts condominium owners are provided by state laws and may be further defined in the Master Deed to their condo.  For many people, consulting a Massachusetts real estate attorney is helpful to gain a better understanding of these documents and laws.  An October 5, 2018 case between condo unit owners and a condominium developer illustrates the significance of the Master Deed in determining the rights and responsibilities of the parties.

The case arose after the developer recorded two amendments to the Master Deed, which had the effect of permitting construction of 56 additional condo units, doubling the current occupancy.  The plaintiffs contended that the amendments were invalid because the defendant no longer had authority to amend the Master Deed without approval of a majority of the unit owners.

In Massachusetts, the Condominium Act provides the framework for the development of condominiums.  The Act explicitly protects unit owners by mandating their consent to any alteration that materially affects their undivided interests in the common areas.  Accordingly, any such alteration can be achieved only by an amendment to the Master Deed.  There is an exception, however, for phased condominium projects like the one at issue in the case.  Unit owner approval is not required to add new units for a phased project if the Master Deed provided for them at the time it was recorded, and made it possible to determine each unit’s interest after the additions.

The Master Deed at issue granted the defendant authority to amend the Master Deed without the consent of any other unit owners, but only if the defendant had existing development phasing rights.  After the seven-year phasing period had expired, the Master Deed could only be amended with the consent of at least 51 or 67 percent of the unit owners, depending on the type of amendment.

The development phasing period was scheduled to end in 2015.  One day prior to the expiration of its phasing rights, however, the defendant filed an amendment extending the period beyond seven years.  It also filed a second amendment, which allowed for the expansion and additional condo units.  The Land Court ultimately ruled that the first amendment circumvented the intent of the Condominium Act by fundamentally altering how the condo operated, and by stripping the unit owners of their anticipated control over their condo building.

The Land Court went on to find that the second amendment was also invalid, because it substantially altered the rights of the plaintiffs in violation of the Master Deed.  The court explained that the additional units proposed under the amendment vested disproportionate voting power in new unit owners, who were not required to contribute financially to the common areas.  The plaintiffs, therefore, would be responsible for wholly funding condo operations with the potential to be outvoted by non-contributors.  In ruling that the amendments were invalid, the court entered a declaratory order in favor of the plaintiffs.

If you have concerns regarding a condominium deed or another residential real estate issue, the Massachusetts property attorneys at Pulgini & Norton can help.  Learn about your legal rights in a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.  Call our office at (781) 843-2200 or reach out online to schedule your appointment today.

More Blog Posts:

Condo Unit Owners Spar Over Parking Rights in Massachusetts Land Court Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published May 29, 2018

Condo Unit Owners Dispute Right to Fence, Access Property in Massachusetts Real Estate Case, Massachusetts Real Estate Lawyer Blog, published July 10, 2017

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