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Subject: Transparency from condo board in MA
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JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/12/2019 12:22 PM  
So I am trying to get more transparency from the trustees of my condo board.
I live in Boston and have been an owner in a condo for almost 20 years.
here is a list of things that are in question.
The owners have never voted on anything since the begging and it has been almost 20 years.
We also do not receive newsletters or any info on what's going on in the building unless you go to the yearly meetings.
They stopped doing audits because they are running out of funds and its cheaper.
This year was the first time we received the financials in over 5 years and it was just an excel spreadsheet with a bunch of lumped expenses and info.
I have requested notes from the meetings and also all of the owner's contact info and they refuse to give it to me.
they had an election but refuse to get an independent party to count the ballots or have a meeting to show the results.
Can someone point out the Massachusetts laws so I can show them which ones they are breaking?

Thanks any help would be greatly appreciated.


AugustinD


Posts:1453


03/12/2019 12:31 PM  
Here is a link to the Massachusetts Condominium Act: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleI/Chapter183A

It's underwhelming compared to other states' condo acts that I have read.

Your best bet is to get a copy of the condo's declaration and bylaws. Check what sections are being violated. Identify the section that explains how you can enforce the declaration and bylaws. Feel free to attach your declaration and bylaws here, so people can help you search them.
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/12/2019 12:47 PM  
see below link. thanks!

https://www.docdroid.net/YCHyHyD/declaration-of-trust11-2.pdf
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2430


03/12/2019 3:36 PM  
Looks like a who lotta apathy has set in the community - and the board has taken advantage of it. You don't say how long the current group has been in office, but generally, these folks stay on year after year because (1) no one else steps up to take over and (2) the owners don't rally together and vote out the old bunch and put in other folks. After a while, the board figures they can do whatever they want and unfortunately, they're right, because no one (besides you) speaks truth to power and demands answers.

It's too bad it's taken you 20 years to realize something's off, but better late than never. As AugustineD says, step one is to look at your documents to see what they say - you have to understand that because even if someone ends up suing the board for breach of fiduciary duty and wins, a few other homeowners must be ready and willing to take over to begin to turn things around. That someone may be you, so buckle up.

The Bylaws generally state how the community is to be run (e.g. number of board members, length of terms, quorums for annual meetings. ELECTIONS, etc.) There may also be language on how often audits should be done and what information the homeowners are entitled to. Once you see what your documents require, make a list of the stuff that really bugs you and rank what's the most obnoxious. For example, I'd start with the finances - you got an Excel spreadsheet with a bunch of lumped expenses and information, but what didn't you understand? Put some questions together, go to the next meeting and ASK THEM. It may be a matter of preparing an itemized budget - if the treasurer (whoever that is) doesn't know how and you have some idea, offer to help. You may not get all the answers at once, but this is where you need to start showing up every month so the board members will get to know you.

Now, it's one thing to criticize, but as you start on this journey, you need to be prepared to offer your help instead of just complaining. For example, if there's not a newsletter, why don't YOU volunteer to put something together? It doesn't have to be extensive - last month's board meeting, date and time of the next one, a few announcements and reminders, is a start, and there are templates you can download in Word where you can cut and paste. Better yet, suggest the board establish a website - there may be a talented homeowner somewhere in your building who might want to set it up. At the very least, a Facebook page (private) could be established and a webmaster appointed by the board to keep it current. Perhaps the reason you don't get everything you feel the board should provide is that there's much to be done but not enough people to do it. Board members aren't being paid for their work and they DO have a life outside the association.

If you weren't able to get owner information from the board, another way to do it is to....take a walk through your building and knock on some doors so you can get to know your neighbors (and collect their contact information). Encourage them to attend meetings with you - don't be surprised when you hear a lot of "I'll think about it," "I don't have time", "I don't care," "I'm not interested" and whatnot, but you may also find a few who feel as you do, but until now, weren't sure what to do or were too intimidated to do anything. That's the starting point of a revolution.

This won't get fixed overnight and there will be some potholes along the way, so brace yourself, get some help from your neighbors (the ones who will ultimately fix this) and good luck.

JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/12/2019 4:21 PM  
For the most part the trustees have been the same since the start. The president was never elected but nominated by the management company and they have never had a trustee vote for a new one, because he is easy to deal with. It is difficult to go knock on peoples doors because a lot of the units are being illegally rented and I don't know who they are. All the units were an affordable lottery.
It is also difficult to do a newsletter as I'm not on the board and do not know what's going on cause they don't tell anyone anything except of course the annual meeting which I had to force them to do this year in the middle of winter so no-one attended.
There is actually a lot going as we are about to lose all of our reserve fund to replace the HVAC tower on top of the building which costs 70k. We also only were able to put $1700 in the reserve last year. which I thought we had to put 10% of the budget. So financially we are in trouble. We're you able to read the document I added in my past post?
AugustinD


Posts:1453


03/12/2019 5:03 PM  
-- Thank you for providing the governing documents of your Condominium. It looks like someone highlighted them selectively. You? If so, I am not sure I am telling you anything you do not know.

-- From PDF page 5, Article III. A. paragraph 2, it appears the members are supposed to elect trustees every three years at an annual meeting. Are these elections happening?

-- What else is there that you think the members should be voting on?

-- It appears the Trustees are not required to provide notice to anyone but themselves for meetings outside the annual meeting.

-- Is your condominium less than 50 units? If so, then the Massachusetts Condo Act at Section 10 appears to require having a vote of the members on whether to have a financial review.

-- PDF page 22, Article V, F. requires the Trustees to provide to members, "reports of the management and finances of the condominium" at the annual meeting. What the Trustees provided does not sound professionally done. Unfortunately, I am not sure the Trustees violated the governing documents on the point.

-- PDF page 23, Article V H. appears to require an annual audit, and more exacting and usual financial statements, such as income and expense statement, and a balance statement, and that these be provided to unit owners annually.

-- The Massachusetts Condo Act at Section 6 has this regarding access to Minutes of Meetings: Unit owners should have access to "the minute book, as maintained by the organization of unit owners, to the extent such minutes are kept;" Unless the Trustees reveal that Minutes are kept, you are out of luck when it comes to Minutes.


-- PDF page 18-19, Article V, H. says that Unit owners are entitled to see all manner of financial records. See also Section 6 of the Condo Act for details on what records you are entitled to review.

-- I do not see that the condo is obliged to provide a unit owner contact info for all owners.

-- I do not see a requirement that the Trustees hire an outside agency (say) to conduct and audit elections.

-- The corporate code for Massachusetts may be applicable here and may have more on, say, Minutes and elections.

-- You have rights of enforcement on pdf page 28 Article V. T. and pdf page 37 Article IX. Arbitration is required. But arbitration tends to be cheaper and quicker than court.

-- Where you see a violation, write a polite letter to the Trustees asking for this to be corrected, and citing the statute or the appropriate section of the condo's governing documents. After a month of no response, send a letter of demand. Google for examples of a "demand letter."
AugustinD


Posts:1453


03/12/2019 5:09 PM  
Importantly, it appears that your condominium is not incorporated. Instead, it is a Trust. The net indicates this is usual for condos in Massachusetts. Corporate law has no application to your condominium.
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/12/2019 6:21 PM  
Yes, it was highlighted as I had a leak in the two above units above. My condo management came in and repaired my condo there was extensive damage totaling 4-5k. Before they started, I asked if it was covered under the master policy. They responded via email "yes it is". Then after the job was done they said after further review it is not covered because of the 10k deductible. I finally got a lawyer through work and he said that it is a binding contract and not to pay anything. I forget the term he used but I would of had it done the way I wanted or renovated differently if I had to use my insurance.
Anyway back to your question. I requested to be on the board in September of last year. They told me they had issues with me owing money and I can't be on the board because if it. They also refuse to contact my attorney. So we had an annual meeting and no election in the middle of December. Only a handful of people attended because it was so cold.
I finally got them to do an election but since they did not want to do it at the annual meeting, instead have the property manager who's fault it was that incorrectly told me I was covered under the master policy do the count the votes with out anyone there.
I also found out that deadline for trustee application was mixed up by her and some of the applications were not submited on time because " a mix up in the dates".

Shouldn't homeowners be voting on if condo fees are increased?
What repairs are to be made?
If we should hire or switch management companies?


RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:511


03/13/2019 5:45 AM  
Posted By JackS15 on 03/12/2019 6:21 PM
Yes, it was highlighted as I had a leak in the two above units above. My condo management came in and repaired my condo there was extensive damage totaling 4-5k. Before they started, I asked if it was covered under the master policy. They responded via email "yes it is". Then after the job was done they said after further review it is not covered because of the 10k deductible. I finally got a lawyer through work and he said that it is a binding contract and not to pay anything. I forget the term he used but I would of had it done the way I wanted or renovated differently if I had to use my insurance.
Anyway back to your question. I requested to be on the board in September of last year. They told me they had issues with me owing money and I can't be on the board because if it. They also refuse to contact my attorney. So we had an annual meeting and no election in the middle of December. Only a handful of people attended because it was so cold.
I finally got them to do an election but since they did not want to do it at the annual meeting, instead have the property manager who's fault it was that incorrectly told me I was covered under the master policy do the count the votes with out anyone there.
I also found out that deadline for trustee application was mixed up by her and some of the applications were not submited on time because " a mix up in the dates".

{1} - Shouldn't homeowners be voting on if condo fees are increased?
{2} - What repairs are to be made?
{3} - If we should hire or switch management companies?







{1} not unless the (annual)increase is over 25%

{2} common elements (as defined in the documents) {YOU should have contents coverage}

{3} decision of the Trustees only {YOU are merely a 'beneficiary' of the trust}


ps. your declaration of trust was recorded in 2005, making y'all 14 years old


tough love: you need to REALLY read and reread the documents AND the state law to which they refer

you are NOT a corporation (corporate law does not apply), but a Trust 'over-governed' by:

(from a 'law source')

MA CONDO LAW



SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3148


03/13/2019 6:59 AM  
An easy way to contact the owner is through tax records. Your town sends the owner a real estate tax bill wherever they might be. Simply look up the address online through your town assessor's web site or go to the town hall and pull the file for each owner. Send them each a letter.
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/13/2019 7:58 AM  
how up to date is the accessors website? I still see someone who died is on there and also someone who moved out and sold their condo last summer.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3148


03/13/2019 8:47 AM  
Posted By JackS15 on 03/13/2019 7:58 AM
how up to date is the accessors website? I still see someone who died is on there and also someone who moved out and sold their condo last summer.


I have no idea how up to date date "your" town web site is. If you have any questions stop by your town hall.
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/13/2019 11:01 AM  
Can you help with more info on elections?

I just found out the person they got to run against me is moving out so they will have 6 people again if I don't get voted in.

Is it legal to have only 6? aren't they suppose to have an odd number?

What is the process of an election? How long is are the ballots are supposed to be sent out and how long to vote? For instance, they only gave a week to vote after the nominations were handed out.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:1065


03/13/2019 12:24 PM  
Jack,

In order to be successful, you are going to need to put a lot more time into this endeavor ... learn your docs, spend the time necessary to get into the details.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8133


03/13/2019 2:22 PM  
Posted By JackS15 on 03/13/2019 11:01 AM
Can you help with more info on elections?

I just found out the person they got to run against me is moving out so they will have 6 people again if I don't get voted in.

Is it legal to have only 6? aren't they suppose to have an odd number?

What is the process of an election? How long is are the ballots are supposed to be sent out and how long to vote? For instance, they only gave a week to vote after the nominations were handed out.




The answer as to BOD size will be in your Bylaws but so far it appears you have read very little of your association docs.
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/15/2019 12:49 PM  
thank you i found out its no more than 7 and no less than 5 and should be an odd number.
So we had our election on Monday and they won't tell me the results. It was an election for all the members since we havnt had one in a long time. Do you know the mass law that tell when election results should be announced? is it three days?



I found this on the web (u) Final election results shall be announced within 3 days of the election

https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H687.pdf
JackS15
(Massachusetts)

Posts:8


03/15/2019 12:50 PM  
https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H687
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