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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Began practicing law in 1992
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I need to know who enforces Massachusettes condo law, section

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I need to know who enforces Massachusettes condo law, section 183, and how enforceable it is. My girlfriend and I find ourselves part of a condo association that has not been keeping up with the legal responsibilities, and now they want to hold us responsible for a change in by laws that were never published and given to us when we bought the unit. I understand what the law says and that the Association is not in compliance, but what teeth are in the law and what are our rights? thanks

Dwayne B. :

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Dwayne B. :

I need you to be a little more specific in your question(s) if you could. When we answer general ones like "what are my rights" we have to give general answers and, invariably, the customer responds with "I already knew that". This type of forum works better if you ask specific questions so we know exactly what you are looking for.

Dwayne B. :

Also, what specific areas of Section 183 are you asking about and is it 183 or 183A?

Dwayne B. :

The website is showing you are offline so I will save and exit so I can assist others. I will be online most of the day but it may take a little while for me to answer if I am assisting others.

Customer:

Thanks for getting back to me. The situation is that my girlfriend has been an owner in this condo for three years, and she was given an out of date set of by-laws that did not reflect the fact that the board voted 10 years ago to ban dogs. A year ago I met her and had been visiting with the dogs every weekend and holiday for nine months, and then moved in with her in July. During all that time, no one including the president had anything bad to say about the dogs or their presence until someone made a complaint that it violated the by-laws. Needless to say, it was very upsetting to us to learn that. Now they want to meet to decide what they want to do about it, but since then we have researched and found out that the Association is not living by the law in many areas. There have never been yearly meetings, there are no elected officers, the bylaws are nonexistent according to the volunteer president and treasurer (who have never been voted into office by anyone but just took the jobs because no one would do it)

Dwayne B. :

I understand.

Dwayne B. :

In cases like these then your girlfriend would be responsible for bringing a lawsuit against the association.

Dwayne B. :

She could do it based on a couple of grounds including the fact that she was given an outdated set of bylaws and then also a theory of law known as "laches" which means you can't let an activity continue for a while and then suddenly complain about it.

Customer:

It seems to me that they have no legal leg to stand on, and in fact have some serious problems that have nothing to do with dogs. I would like to politely tell them that they need to get their house in order legally and that by then my elderly dogs will probably be dead of old age. But does my girlfriend have a legal expectation that the Association is up to the law, and is there a possibility of legal recourse for her (I am not an owner and have no say) if they wish to take a hard stand against the presence of the dogs?

Dwayne B. :

There is definitely a possibility of legal recourse for her. You can't really argue that they don't enforce other sections of the bylaws as a defense to them enforcing this section but you can can argue those other two defenses I mentioned.

Customer:

Is that because there is no up to date set of by-laws? There are many examples of them not enforcing items on use of communal space that violate the old by-laws. And they even violated the old pet by-laws, which said that all pets were welcome upon approval of the board, if you see 10 months of nice conversations with the other owners about the dogs as tacit approval of their presence.

Dwayne B. :

I really think it is because of "equity" which just means fairness. They can't not provide a set of by laws and then say that you have to honor them. They also can't let a condition continue to exit for a long period of time and then suddenly no longer allow it.

Dwayne B. :

"Tacit approval" is the same as the legal concept of laches, essentially.

Customer:

So, knowing that a law-suit is a possibility, knowing that it will take Association time and money might be the angle I want to pursue if common sense does not prevail? Would it also be true and relevant that the association could be sued by anyone for lack of following the law?

Dwayne B. :

They could be sued by anyone who owns a condo.

Dwayne B. :

The best solution is probably to have a local lawyer write them a letter advising that they will sue and explaining the legal theories behind the lawsuit.

Dwayne B. :

That usually backs them off.

Customer:

At the meeting on Weds. we could basically say all this and provide the letter later if I cant get one done in time?

Customer:

I would think it would be best to have it to give them then, but I might not be able to.

Dwayne B. :

Yes, that would be best.

Dwayne B. :

You might even be able to hire the lawyer to come with you to the meeting.

Customer:

Ah. that is a thought... Whew! Can you please tell me how these laws are enforcible? is it only by the owners looking out for their onw interests or, say if there is financial concern, which I believe there is, are there state regulators or something?

Dwayne B. :

The majority of them are only enforced by the owners. The Attorney General could get involved in certain cases but it is extremely rare for them to do so.

Customer:

ah, ok, that is good to know. so basically through civil suit we are supposed to police our associations and expect them to be living by the law.

Dwayne B. :

Correct.

Dwayne B. :

I'm actually working on a book on COAs and HOAs right now

Dwayne B. :

It's a ways from being finished

Customer:

ok, I think I have the picture. Is there anything else I should know? Haaha you want to come to the meeting with me?

Customer:

Seems to me what is needed (IT guys, here is an idea) is a complete COA set up and bookkeeping program that is idiot and volunteer proof.

Customer:

Sort of like Turbo Tax only for Condo board officers.

Dwayne B. :

Sorry, we can't do that but you shouldn't have a problem finding someone locally. It's really just to show them that you're serious.

Customer:

Thank you very much, this has helped a lot.

Dwayne B. :

You're very welcome. Anything else I can assist with?

Customer:

nope, that's it. have a great day!

Dwayne B. :

To you as well! I'll exit now to assist others.

Dwayne B. :

Best wishes to you on this and please don't forget to leave a Positive Rating (of course I’d suggest Excellent!) so I get credit for my work.

Dwayne B. and 7 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I meant to rate you excellent but my phone Dodd not show the excellent face.please change that if you can.
Thanks much, I'll let the moderators know.