BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate is poised to take up legislation aimed at addressing what critics call a “toothless tiger” - the state law requiring condominium boards to produce records for any condo unit owner who requests them.
The bill (S 723), filed by Sen. Daniel Wolf of Harwich, would update a law that went into place 52 years ago, according to Meredith Keane, a Yarmouth condo owner who has been advocating for the changes.
Keane told lawmakers at a December hearing that condo owners might need to access certain records within a set timeframe to sell or refinance their units, but said the law provides no accountability if boards or condo managers do not comply with records requests. The only recourse, she said, is for owners to sue for records, hiring an attorney at fees that can top $300 hourly.
“If you can’t get that in a timely basis, you’ve lost a deal, but you have to pay out-of-pocket to get a condo attorney,” she told the News Service. “Where are you going to get that kind of money?”
The growth in the condo market only underscores the need for the bill’s passage, according to Keane, who says there were 312,000 condominiums in Massachusetts in 2015, including more than 59,000 in Boston.
“She is truly the driving force behind this bill,” said Matt Gaines, chair of the Massachusetts Legislative Action Committee at the Communities Association Institute, referring to Keane.
Gaines said the bill’s passage could make condo boards more responsive to records requests because it would make condo associations responsible for the legal fees of unit owners if a court rules that owners were entitled to records but were not granted them.
The condo law, Chapter 183A, lays out records that condo groups must keep, including receipts, invoices, contracts and insurance policies, and outlines the rights of condo unit owners to view those records and make copies of them, said Gaines, who also urged lawmakers in December to be mindful of the potential for frivolous records requests.
The bill’s House sponsors include Reps. Timothy Madden of Nantucket, Jay Livingstone of Boston, and Michelle DuBois of Brockton. The Legislature’s Housing Committee gave the bill a favorable report in January and the Senate on Tuesday put the bill on its Thursday agenda.