Can I withhold condominium fees in Massachusetts?

Additional Information:

I remember when I was a student and renting an apartment in Boston my roommates and I once withheld rent from our landlord to get him to make repairs to our stove and water heater. Now, a bit older, my wife and I own a condominium unit in Westwood, MA that suffered water damage to the ceiling in our living room as a result of a leak in the roof that the condominium association has, to this date, refused to adequately repair. So my question is: can we withhold our condominium fees until they make the repair? Thanks for any help you can offer.

ATTORNEY ANSWER:

Both state law as well as Court decisions have confirmed that a unit owner may not withhold the payment of the common area charges. These Courts have recognized that just as a homeowner can not withhold their payment of taxes, a unit owner must pay his common area charges without deduction. The unit owner must pay the common area charges under protest and then is free to challenge the actions of the Board. A common mistake unit owners make is attempting to protest a Board’s action by refusing to pay common area charges. This can lead to devastating results because Board’s have considerable power to collect unpaid common area assessments. The amounts which are not paid constitute a lien on the unit as well as a personal liability of the unit owner. In addition, all costs of collection, including the attorneys fees, are assessed against the unit owner. Thus, not only can the association obtain a judgment against the unit owner for the unpaid amounts, but the association will also obtain a judgment for the attorneys fees and costs incurred in collecting these amounts. In many cases, these amounts can be more than the unpaid common area charges. If the unit owner continues to fail to pay, the association maintains the power to foreclose on the lien which results in the unit owner losing title to the unit. In fact, the association’s lien has priority to the first mortgage for six months of common area charges and legal fees. This means that the association can foreclose on the unit and gain title to the unit free of the mortgages. The main point is that the non payment of common area charges often leads to added expense to the unit owner and, in some cases, to the loss of the unit.

The Westwood, MA Condo Attorneys at Goldman & Pease provide legal services to individuals and businesses for all real estate transactions in the Boston metro region including Alston, Arlington, Belmont, Brighton, Brookline, Cambridge, Canton, Dedham, Dover, Milton, Natick, Needham, Newton, Norwood, Waltham, Watertown, Wayland, Wellesley, Weston, West Roxbury, Westwood, and all of Massachusetts.