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…]

Evicting a Problem Tenant

By: Howard S. Goldman and Eric T. Thulin

Most residential landlord/tenant relationships begin and end without any problems or concerns. However, when landlords find themselves dealing with a tenant who continuously violates the terms and conditions of the tenancy, the landlord often feels like they are without recourse. Massachusetts is an extremely tenant-friendly state with a long history of statutes and case precedent which has enhanced the rights of tenants and made it very difficult for landlords to sustain and succeed on eviction actions. To evict a tenant, the landlord must proceed cautiously and carefully to avoid traps for the unwary.

Landlords have numerous reasons why they seek to evict a tenant. Most commonly, it is for unpaid rent. Other evictions are referred to as “cause-based evictions” and they usually are brought for noise violations, unauthorized smoking, or allowing unauthorized occupants. Advances in society and technology have also introduced new issues and complications for landlords such as the legalization of marijuana, invention of electronic cigarettes, and online subletting through websites such as Airbnb. All of these have increased the difficulties that landlords have to deal with and have posed legitimate questions as to what the rights of the landlords are. [Read more…]

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…]