Bill Would Hold Condo Associations To Account
By Gina Curreri
BU News Service
BOSTON — It took nine months for West Yarmouth condo owner Meredith Keane to receive financial documents she had requested from her condominium association, despite a state law that requires the paperwork to be readily available to owners.
“There are no teeth in the toothless tiger,” she told the Joint Committee on Housing at a Statehouse hearing Thursday.
At Keane’s request, Sen. Daniel Wolf, D-Harwich, refiled a bill that would add teeth to a law that requires all condominium associations to keep receipts, bank statements, contracts for work, audits and reviews, among other documents, for owners for seven years.
Proponents say although the original statute is well-intentioned, there’s no way for it to be enforced except by condo owners themselves, who might face a costly legal process to get documents they need for, say, refinancing.
The bill, S.621, would require condo associations that do not maintain and provide records to pay the legal fees of a condo owner trying to get them from the association.
The bill was originally filed in 2011 by former state Rep. Demetrius Atsalis, D-Barnstable.
Although the committee reported favorably on the bill that session, it never saw a final vote.
Wolf told the committee an amendment to the law is “way overdue” after the explosion of condo development. He hopes to see action on the bill this session.
“(The bill) would strengthen the ability of those who own condominiums to get real info and hold condominium associations accountable for providing that information,” he told the committee.
There are 20,953 condominiums on Cape Cod and Plymouth, according to 2013 first-quarter data from the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute Department of Economic and Policy Research.
Keane said she requested financial documents from Beachwood Condos in West Yarmouth, where she has owned a cottage since 1986 and has served on the condo board.
The board turned over the paperwork nine months later after two area legislators wrote letters saying the board was required to do so by law.
“I wouldn’t have had the money to take legal action, but we shouldn’t even have to sue the board in the first place,” Keane said after the hearing.
Keane said the banks she spoke to wanted at least three years of financial documentation from condo owners looking to refinance.
Matt Gaines, an attorney representing the Massachusetts chapter of the Community Associations Institute, said the group is neutral on the bill and did not submit testimony.
“We can understand the benefits of it, but at the same time we think it’s a bit of a slippery slope,” he told the committee.
The Boston City Council and officials in Brockton, Quincy and Worcester support Wolf’s bill, along with 20 state legislators.
All Cape and Islands legislators are co-signers of the bill.
This story first appeared in the Cape Cod Times Online.