Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Emergency Notice

You are here

Protections for Tenants Living in Condos

Produced by Mac McCreight
Reviewed May 2017

In 1991, the legislature took a first step toward addressing the pressing needs of condominium associations with financial problems and absentee condo owners.56 The 1991 amendments to the state condominium law allow condo associations to collect rent from tenants in cases of prolonged delinquency by unit owners.57 Tenants, in turn, are protected from retaliation by the absentee delinquent owner if they pay rent, or express an intent to pay rent, to the condo association.58

In early 1993, the legislature adopted additional provisions intended to protect condo associations and tenants residing in condominium units where unit owners were not fulfilling their responsibilities.59 The law gives condo associations a "super-priority" in being able to collect unpaid charges from unit owners (such as unpaid common-area charges, replacement reserves, or the like). This makes it much less likely that there will be prolonged defaults by unit owners.

Under the law, the condo association must designate a person or entity to oversee maintenance and repair of common areas and give written notice to all unit owners of this. When an owner rents to a tenant, the owner must also designate a person to oversee maintenance and repairs in the unit. At the start of a tenancy, the owner must notify the tenant and the condo association in writing of the name and phone number of the person responsible for maintenance of the unit, and also give the tenant written notice of the name and phone number of the person responsible for common-area repairs. Similar written notice must be given when there is any change in the person or entity responsible for repairs.60 Unit owners must also supply the condo association with the name or names of any tenants or occupants of the unit, other than persons who are visitors for less than 30 days.61

It can still be very difficult for a tenant in a condo unit to get repairs related to common areas done. This is because common-area repairs often require consent of the condo association. The bylaws for the condo association may outline how such decisions are made. However, in the case of an emergency, the unit owner may make such repairs and then bill the condo association.62 A unit owner cannot, however, avoid responsibility under the state Sanitary Code for having a habitable unit because she must get approval from the condo association for common-area repairs.

The law also gives a unit owner who sells to a nonprofit organization the right to provide a nonprofit buyer with financial information about the condo association.63 This indirectly benefits tenants because non-profits will then be able to determine how they can best maintain a controlling interest over the condo and stabilize the property.

Endnotes

56 . At the time the legislation was passed, almost every condominium complex in Massachusetts had some delinquent owners. In 1992, condominium foreclosures increased by 27% over the previous year. The level of absentee condominium ownership in Massachusetts was 42% at that time. Citizens Housing and Planning Association, "The Growing Condominium Crisis in Massachusetts" (1992).

57 . G.L. c. 183A, §6(c) (originally enacted by Chapter 554 of the Acts of 1991, Section 1 (approved January 9, 1992)).

58 . See Chapter 554 of the Acts of 1991, Sections 1–4 (approved January 9, 1992) (including anti-retaliation provision in G.L. c. 183A, §6(c), and adding parallel language to retaliation and eviction defense statutes, G.L. c. 186, §18, and G.L. c. 239, §2A).

59 . See Chapter 400 of the Acts of 1992 (approved January 14, 1993) (revising various provisions of G.L. c. 183A).

60 . G.L. c. 183A, §10(k) (corresponds to Chapter 400 of the Acts of 1992, Section 14 (approved January 14, 1993).

61 . G.L. c. 183A, §4(6).

62 . G.L. c. 183A, §§5(d)-(g).

63 . G.L. c. 183A, §10(d).

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm