In a long awaited ruling pitting condominium associations against mortgage lenders backed by the Federal Housing Finance Authority, the Supreme Judicial Court has upheld the so-called “rolling” super-priority lien for unpaid condominium fees. What this means for condominium associations in Massachusetts is that they are able to seek super-priority liens for successive 6 month periods of unpaid condominium fees, rather than be limited to one six month period. The super-priority lien takes priority over the first mortgage on the delinquent unit, thereby giving the condominium association a powerful tool to collect unpaid condo fees.
Thomas Moriarty, Esq. of Marcus, Errico, Emmer and Brooks, who represented the condominium association told me that “we are pleased with the results and we believe that this leaves condominium associations with the power to ensure payment of condominium fees as was intended by the Massachusetts legislature when it enacted the priority lien provisions of the statute 23 years ago to deal with the emergency created by unit owners not paying condominium fees to pay for essential services.”
The SJC recognized that the non-payment of condominium fees can have disastrous consequences upon a condominium association, especially smaller projects. The super-priority lien was established by the Legislature in reaction to the real estate recession in the early 1990’s where many condominium associations were financially devastated by non-payment of condo fees. Among other protections, the super-priority lien enables an association to leverage the mortgage lender to pay up to 6 month’s worth of outstanding condominium fees on behalf of the delinquent owner. The “rolling” lien practice developed by condominium attorneys where the outstanding balance exceeded 6 months worth of fees. Two years ago, the Appeals Court ruled that the rolling lien procedure was not permissible, leaving condominium associations in limbo regarding their ability to collect unpaid fees.
Led by Tom Moriarty and Alan Lipkind of Burns & Levinson, condominium associations successfully persuaded the SJC that the Legislature intended for associations to have the protections of the “rolling” lien. The justices reasoned that “our interpretation of the statute is consistent with the Legislature’s long-standing interest in improving the governance of condominiums and strengthening the ability of organization of unit owners to collect common expenses, thereby avoiding a reemergence of the serious public emergency that developed in the early 1990”s.”
This is a major victory for condominium associations who should all be having collective sigh of relief. If you have any questions about this ruling or need assistance collecting unpaid condo fees, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 508-620-5352.