Airbnb Legislative Update: Massachusetts’ New Rules

By: Howard S. Goldman, Esq.* –

Airbnb – you either love it or you hate it. With roughly 1 in 10 U.S. adults using short-term accommodations, their popularity is undeniable. And for the millions who vacation in Massachusetts each year, short-term rental sites offer a wide range of price points in a state notorious for its lack of mid-priced accommodations at premier tourist draws: Boston, Cape Cod, and the Berkshires.

But other populations are decidedly less enamored by the ascent of Airbnb: condominiums, abutters and the hotel industry. At Goldman & Pease we regularly help condominium associations, property managers and management companies faced with refereeing a new breed of disputes.  Additionally, abutters to the roof deck that is rented out for bachelorette gatherings each weekend and the condominium owner sandwiched between two downtown Airbnbs have had lots to complain about. In short, some are winning and some are clearly losing in this new rental accommodation landscape.

Strict Registration Requirements

Massachusetts’ new laws regulating short-term rentals became fully effective on December 1, 2019, and define short-term rentals as accommodations rented out more than 14 days per calendar year at more than $15/day. The new laws require short-term rental owners and intermediaries like Airbnb to register online with the Mass. Department of Revenue by providing proof of residency and adequate insurance through various documentation, paying certain annual licensing fees, getting a business certificate, notifying neighbors and, once an owner has accomplished all that, adding the registration number to on-line intermediary sites such as Airbnb to prove that the accommodations are properly registered.  These registration requirements make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to establish a state-wide registry. [Read more…]

New England Condominium – How Will Your Community Be Affected?

Attorney Howard Goldman was quoted extensively in the the New England Condominium article “Legal & Legislative Update 2019 – How Will Your Community Be Affected?

 

By A.J. Sidranksy | New England Condominium

Laws, and the legal decisions that support and enforce them, are constantly evolving and can affect every facet of community life in HOAs, condominiums and co-ops. While law and legal cases can emanate from any of our three levels of government – federal, state or local – most of the developments that affect housing come from the bottom up, with local and state law often defining or redefining what co-op, condo, HOA, and even owners of rental housing may and may not do within the law.

Much of the legislation and case law pertaining to housing derives from the federal Fair Housing Act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 around the time of the civil rights movement. The law exists primarily to protect against race-based discrimination in housing, but it has gone on to represent and promote a much broader range of principles.

Aside from non-discrimination, housing law and legislation also deal with safety, equity, and the ability of local governments to tax real estate owners. This type of legislation and specific case law more than likely originates at the local and state level. Often as a result, individual statutes and cases apply to specific localities. A decision handed down in a New York court may not affect communities in Massachusetts, though a similar case could result in a similar decision in more than one locale. Similarly, a statute may apply to a co-op or condo in one city and not in the neighboring one, resulting in different requirements literally a few miles apart. [Read more…]

Appeals Court Holds Condominium Developer’s Lender Cannot Foreclose on Common Areas

Earlier this month, the Massachusetts Appeals Court held that a bank that loaned money to a condominium developer and gave each unit buyer a partial mortgage discharge upon purchase did not have a remaining mortgage interest in undeveloped common areas of the Condominium. Specifically, in Trustees of the Beechwood Village Condominium Trust vs. USAlliance Federal Credit Union, No. 18-P-89, the Massachusetts Appeals Court stated:

“We conclude that all of the land associated with the condominium development, including the common area, was submitted to the provisions of G.L.c. 183A, the Condominium Act (act or statute), by the master deed, and that the effect of the subsequent mortgage discharges by the relevant lenders upon the sale of each unit was to release the lenders’ mortgage interest in all of the common area . . . .The unit owners became the fee simple owners of all of the common area as tenants in common, including the undeveloped common area.”

For the full text of this important decision, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/05/15/18P0089.pdf

Condominium Unit Rental Restrictions and Bans: Pros, Cons and Considerations

By: Howard S. Goldman, Esq. and Rebecca A. Erlichman, Esq.

The issue of how to handle condominium unit rentals is one that remains relevant to all condominium associations. It is up to the condominium association to protect the interests of all of the unit owners – both those who want to avoid an undue concentration of tenants to protect the character of the community and those who wish to rent out their units.

CondosThere are pros and cons to allowing rentals. Tenants are more likely to abuse common areas and amenities, violate condominium association rules, and be less conscientious caretakers of the units they occupy as compared to homeowners. A large concentration of tenants will significantly change the nature of a condominium community and could potentially lower the market price and affect the ability of owners to refinance. On the other hand, however, certain condominium unit owners value the ability to rent out units as a financial investment and want the flexibility of being able to rent out the unit during a short term geographical relocation.

Whether the condominium association chooses to ban rentals altogether, or allows them, it is clear that the bylaws should containing language pertaining to rentals to clarify the rules and avoid conflict. This article will discuss a number of factors condominium associations should consider with respect to updating its bylaws to address the issue of tenants.

Condominium Associations Have Authority to Implement New Rules on Rentals

In general, condominium associations have broad latitude to create rules and regulations intended to better the community. These broad powers emerge from the basic notion of condominium ownership: in exchange for the benefits of association with one’s neighbors, an owner “must give up a certain degree of freedom of choice which he might otherwise enjoy in separate, privately owned property.” Where use restrictions are placed on unit owners, such measures of control must be contained within the condominium’s master deed or by-laws and not its rules and regulations. Johnson v. Keith, 368 Mass. 316, 320 (1975); M.G.L. 183A § 8(g) (requiring that restrictions on the use of condominium buildings be contained within the master deed); M.G.L. 183A § 11(e) (requiring that use restrictions not detailed in the master deed be contained in the by-laws). See Granby Heights Association, Inc. v. Dean, 38 Mass. App. Ct. 266 (1995) (where a condominium rule against pets was ruled invalid because it was not contained within the by-laws or master deed). [Read more…]