Archive for Condominium law

Exclusive rights use for your condominium

What is exclusive rights use in a condominium? How does it work?

In a condominium, there is shared use. There are common areas and common amenities and shared expenses.


But you have under the deed and by-laws in many cases the exclusive use of some areas. These areas can be:

  • Your unit
  • your driveway
  • your parking spot
  • your yard
  • your deck or roofdeck
  • your balcony

No one has the right to infringe on the exclusive use of your area. People are funny and territorial. They slowly take over your land and your space if you let them. They use your space if you are not using it.

Set your neighbors straight. Tell them that while we are in a shared community, there are places that they cannot go. It is trespass, and it is illegal.

There may be some instances where someone can have access rights to walk through, or dig for utilities etc, but your exclusive use is yours to use within the guidelines set forth in the condominium documents.


Can I be forced to buy condo insurance?

Can you be forced to buy condo insurance? Yes and NO.

If your condo documents insist, and you sign on, then you must. If you have a mortgage and one of those 500 pieces of paper that you never read but signed at the closing says so then Yes.

But if you have no mortgage and no documents to say that you have to, then you can make your own decision. If you choose not to, it is a BAD decision, but one that you can make.

Rules for gas grills in Boston

Because I am from Boston and insure condominiums, I get this question all the time.

Can we have a grill in our condominium?

According to the city of Boston Article (1) section 1.05(b)


city of Boston reference site: Click here

I hear that the enforcement of the rule is much like jaywalking. It is illegal, but everyone does it.

Comment from a condo unit owner in Boston

” I know that grills are illegal, but every warm summer night, my deck on my condo is smothered in the scent of burning and smoking meat. I don’t eat meat and I know it is illegal, what do I do”?


The question is what does the insurer do? Can they deny a claim because it is illegal?

Does your insurance policy specifically exclude the use of grills?

The answer is yes and no. Of course it is.

You can be denied coverage for intentional acts.

condo grill fireBut most basic condo association policies do not exclude the use of charcoal or gas grills. BUT you need to read your policy and ask your insurer. special endorsements, exclusions and warrants are added all the time. Also check that you were not warned of the hazard and recommended to stop using grills. If you were and you signed off that you would comply, then watch out!

Also, check your by laws and deed. You may be already be in violation of your by-laws. I own 2 condo’s. One I can have a grill and one I cannot.

Remember: Safety First!!



should you reveal names of delinquent unit owners?

This subject of revealing names of delinquent unit owners in a condominium association was brought up in a forum on linked In.

The group discussion was in Condo HOA Law & Living.

From an insurance standpoint, this might cause issues. You may be liable for slander or libel. You could wrongfully list someone and cause anguish. You could aggravate someone into physical retaliation.

This action may also be illegal, and hence you would not be covered.

The consensus from the experts was to not list the dead beats, and to check your state laws and your condo documents.

Good luck, and remember to always keep up to date with your fees and there won’t be a problem.


Mold kills dog

If you have not gone anywhere lately, because you thought you might miss Ed McMahon coming to your door with a giant check from publishers clearing house.

Then Go out! Ed is not coming, he has bigger issues. Ed claims that mold killed his dog and that the insurance company is to blame.

Read more here in an article by David Alpert of ABC News.

Mold is a serious problem, and left unabated, or unchecked, it can kill you or your pet. Whether or not it was the insurance companies fault is up to the courts to decide, but poor ED has to live in a temporary shelter for $23,000 a month.


flood and your first floor condominium

The litigation landscape blog writes in a recent blog titled:

“The bottom is out”

Residential Condominium Building Association National Flood Insurance Program Flood Policies do not cover most personal property items below the first elevated floor.  Most post FIRM residential condominium buildings along the New Jersey shore have an elevated first floor.  In many instances the space below the first floor where the garage, breezeway, utility and storage areas are located is enclosed, and has been improved.  In some cases these improvements even include showers and toilets which traditionally may have been in secondary structures in older beach community developments.  Most of these improvements are not covered.  If someone promised you insurance coverage for improvements and personal property stored in these areas you may have a claim against them.

3 condo insurance questions

OK there are one million questions to ask, and one million things to know.

Let’s boil it down to 3 basic insurance questions:

1)    Does my insurance products match up with our By-Laws?

There are by-laws for a reason, You made them or follow them because they are the laws of the association or condominium. So if they are the law or the gospel, does your insurance product match up with what the law of the condo dictates. Many times it does not.

Look for a match of insurability. Make sure that the policy does not cover more of the building than necessary, or less that required. This is the old bare-walls vs All-in argument.

Do you need workers compensation? Do you have the right limits for crime insurance or theft of money.

2) Are we covered for a catastrophe?

Catastrophe exposures are real and can wipe you out. Flood, earthquake, wind and fire.

It never happens, or it can’t happen to me, or the price is not worth the risk are all excuses. You are in charge of maybe your biggest asset, and probably the biggest asset of your neighbors. Think about the catastrophe’s, and insure them properly.

3) Are the insurance limits adequate?

Do you insure the property for the Full replacement value? Have you had a consultant provide you with the value, not your agent. Are your liability limits high enough? The cost of excess limits, are cheap, and in today’s litigious society, the bigger the better when it comes to limits.

Three basic insurance questions to ask yourself, if you are handling the insurance for the condominium association you live in or manage.


Top Condominium lawyers in Massachusetts

Insurers and Lawyers go hand in hand. Lawyers work both sides of the fence, some in defense of the insured condominium or for the insurer.

Complicated dealings with an insurer or a unit owner or venturing into a construction project need a law firm and having sound legal advice is a must in today’s day and age.

condominium lawIn Massachusetts, I have found several good firms, with the best being Marcus, Errico. Emmer & Brooks. This team of dedicated lawyers headed by Steve Marcus are specialists in condominium law and advocates for the condominium community. They represent over 3900 condominium communities.

*Resource their monthly newsletter for important current topics

Top Condominium Law firms in Massachusetts:

  1. Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks- Braintree, ma
  2. Goodman & Shapiro- Dedham, Ma
  3. McCullough Stievater & Polvere, – Charlestown, Ma

The condominium world has changed over the past 30 years, to say the least.  Laws and regulations have multiplied, the challenges confronting condominium boards have become more complex.



FHA Guidelines for Condominium Insurance

It is estimated that 30-40% of all condominium loans now are backed by the FHA. It is very important that your condominium association seek and get approval.

Loans are easier to come by, and rates are better, and the loan is backed by the federal government.

Good deals come with strings attached. The association has to meet many criteria to be approved.

We will deal with the insurance section, and what is required.

You are required to meet the following criteria:

  1. 100% replacement cost- The association must carry enough insurance to completely rebuild the structure back to it’s original design, layout and appearance at the time of loss ( no unit owner “gap” insurance is eligible).
  2. General liability insurance- at least $1,000,000 per occurance
  3. Crime coverage- Fidelity or employee dishonesty coverage covering the association and including naming the property manager as additional insured. ( FHA backs down ) This is for associations with 20 or more units. The amount of coverage to be equal to 3 months assoc. fees and total amount of the reserve funds.
  4. Certain Flood Zones are not eligible.
  5. Unit owners must carry 20% of the value of their unit as coverage “A” building coverage on their unit owners homeowners ( HO_6) insurance.

Getting FHA approval is no small feat, but it has it’s benefits. Insurance is only a part of the process, but if you comply with these five steps, you should be on your way to approval.

Is mulch a fire hazard?

Mulch can be ignited very easily, and its close proximity to a

mulch fire hazard

from this

condominium building makes it a very dangerous hazard.

Massachusetts has adopted a new law:

The fire safety code related to forest products ( 527 CRM 17,00).

Effective 9/1/2012 new application of mulch within 18 inches of a wood or sided condominium is prohibited. Residential condominiums with less than six units are exempted, but it is still prudent to use the same safety prevention techniques.

What can you do?

  1. remove old mulch
  2. pull the mulch back a couple of feet.
  3. replace mulch with stone or other non combustible material.
  4. be smart and don’t allow smoking near mulch.
mulch blaze

To This!

If there is an accident and a repeated hazard, there will be a law. This is the case here.

Be careful, and follow the state code in Massachusetts.