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July 2010 Archives

Are You Ready To Buy A Home? Call A Boston Real Estate Lawyer!

Home sales in June 2010 were the best in the past four years. The Boston Globe reports that residents of the Bay State bought a total of 5,726 single family homes. Total sales have increased 28 percent  when compared with June 2009.

While some experts say that is may be due to the federal homebuyer's credit, the next few months will indicate if that is the case. Kevin Sears, president of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors said: "The tax credit did its job and got the market moving again. The activity over the next couple of months will answer whether the momentum was sustained."

South Dartmouth Landlord Jason Griffith Ordered To Pay Fine

According to South Coast Today, Jason Griffith, a landlord in South Dartmouth, was fined and ordered by a judge to attend a fair housing training after he allegedly made discriminatory statements in rentals ads that he posted on Facebook. Specifically, he must attend a training on state and federal fair housing laws and he must advertise any future rentals as "Equal Opportunity Housing" and pay $1,150 in fines.

In move that would shock even the most seasoned Boston real estate lawyer, the Jason Griffith allegedly placed a rental ad on Craigslist that said "no Section 8" back in April 2009. In October 2009, Attorney General Martha Coakley's office filed a complaint against the landlord after settlement talks failed. Jason Griffith could not be reached for comment.

Park Lane Seaport Apartments Building For Sale

The Boston Herald reports that Park Lane Seaport Apartments is on the real estate market at the moment. The building boasts 465 units and is located along the South Boston waterfront. It is news that we are sure that many a Boston real estate attorney will be keeping tabs on. In addition to the residential units, it also boasts 18,000 feet of retail and restaurant space. Some of the tenants include: LTK, Salvatore's and J. Pace & Sons. It is currently co-owned by Fallon Co. and Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers. It was constructed 4 years ago.

While you may not be in the market to buy the whole place, it is good for interested future tenants to know that the building includes a mix of 35 studio apartments, 221 one-bedrooms, 205 two-bedrooms and four, three-bedroom, two-bath apartments. The complex offers views of the city and the harbor.

Foreclosure Evictions: What Can A Tenant Do?

We all know that there is a bad word and it starts with the letter "F." In fact, the use of this "F" word so angered Teresa Guidice from Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey, that she went on a screaming rampage. Can you guess what that word is? If you guessed foreclosure, then chances are you probably have had to deal with the ramifications of it.

The Boston Herald reports that more and more Boston residents are getting fed up with one symptom of foreclosure: foreclosure evictions of tenants. A group of protesters gathered outside of the State House yesterday; before Gov. Deval Patrick planned to sign a bill that would offer more tenants more protection when property is under foreclosure. Some of the other important aspects of this foreclosure prevention bill are more preemptive measures for homeowners to prevent foreclosure and actually making mortgage a crime in Massachusetts.

Boston real estate attorney can tell you that foreclosure evictions can be a painful process for tenants. Here are some facts you need to know as a tenant:

Water Bill Complaints Flood City of Brockton Office

The City of Brockton may be in hot water over water bill complaints. The Boston Globe reports that Brockton homeowners are just outraged over what they claim are ridiculous water bills from the city. The city was forced to investigate its water meters after some homeowners like Ayanna Yancy Cato received a water bill for $100,000. WCVB Boston reports that the single mother of three was just shocked over her water bill. She said: "My biggest issue is that I still have a higher water bill than a commercial business, and no one can explain that to me."

When asked about the seemingly crazy water bills, Brockton City Councilor Dennis Denapoli said: "We have a lot of faulty water meters out there. There has to be. Nobody gets $100,000 water bill. I'm sorry." The clincher is that those Brockton homeowners' bills are still outstanding. While the owners with the $100,000 bill are excused, it seems that those residents may want to fight back with a Boston real estate lawyer

Central Square in Boston Slated For A Facelift

East Boston has been looking a lot more trendy these days. With hipster stores such as Tello's and Shaw's, the Central Square in Boston is due for a renovation. The Boston Globe reports that Boston is planning to give Central Square in East Boston a facelift. In a move sure to excite a Boston real estate lawyer, the city plans to take Central Square and make it a hub for the community.

The $4 million dollar project includes plans to make narrower streets and larger sidewalks, new streetlamps, and an expanded Alfred Bertulli Memorial Park. Vineet Gupta, director of policy and planning for the city's Transportation Department told the Boston Globe: "There is so much opportunity here to make this a thriving and attractive business district, so that residents can come out and use it. It's really reimagining the square."

Homeowners Beware: New Liability Over Snow Injuries

We all know that homeowners have a lot of issues to think about. Whether its HOA fees to foreclosure issues; homeowners needs to keep track of everything related to their property. If you ask a Boston real estate attorney, he or she will tell you that if you fail to address such issues, the issue can snowball into a bigger problem. Based on a recent court decision by the Supreme Judicial Court, it can literally snowball into a problem. The Boston Herald reports that the highest court in Massachusetts has ruled that the distinction between unnatural and natural accumulations in lawsuits over snow injuries does not matter.

What does this mean for homeowners like you?

It means that you should make sure you plow your walkways and driveway. You should also shovel and salt your sidewalk. If you don't, and someone slips and falls on your property, you can be held liable.

Boston Landlord Fined By EPA Over Lead Paint Disclosure

The Boston Business Journal reports that a Boston landlord has been fined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for over $85,000 for possible lead paint disclosure violations. The Boston landlord has been accused of violating the lead paint disclosure rules a whopping 14 times. The New England regional office of the EPA released that landlord John C. Jones has violated the federal lead paint disclosure rule at four rental properties located in Roxbury and Dorchester.

If you ask a Boston real estate lawyer, he or she will tell you that Congress passed something known as the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992, also known as Title X, to prevent families from being exposed to lead in things such as paint, dust, or soil. As a result of this lead paint disclosure legislation, landlord must do the following:

Towns Consider Zoning In Order To Accommodate A Younger Market

The Boston Globe reports that the municipality of Northborough has started to rezone areas in order to accommodate for younger families with children. Town Planner Kathy Joubert said: "The old model hasn't proven successful in today's changing housing market.And we decided that for us in Northborough, from a zoning perspective, the age of our residents shouldn't make a difference to us as a town."

Before the town came to that decision, multifamily housing was only allowed in affordable housing or under the senior residential overlay district bylaw. That means only buyers over the age of 55 years of age could buy into multifamily housing, or buyers had to qualify for affordable housing. The new rezoning has allowed multifamily housing for people of all ages.

Boston College Helps Locals Fight Nuisance Property Landlord

Brighton residents and Boston College officials joined together to prevent a landlord from offering housing to additional students. The Boston Herald reports that the landlord manages a property that residents and officials claim is a nuisance property. BC Community Affairs Director Billy Mills said: "We stand as neighbors on this one. It's one of those houses that's a continual problem. You've got a large house where the kids continue to party and they're loud."

The nuisance property was already cited for violations this past October for overcrowding; even in an illegal attic apartment. The illegal attic apartment had no windows and only one exit.

Energy Efficient Windows Can Cause Vinyl Siding Damage

There may possibly one more thing to put a damper on neighborly love in Boston. It may cause more people to hire a Boston real estate lawyer. WCVB Boston reports that homeowners with energy efficient windows can possibly cause damage to their neighbor's vinyl siding. How is that possible? It seems that the sunlight reflected from the windows can cause vinyl siding damage because of unusually high temperatures from the light reflected.

While this is sure to cause tensions with neighbors, hopefully they won't need to call a Boston real estate attorney to resolve a neighborly dispute over the issue. The state Board of Building Regulations and Standards are investigating this new issue as well looking into their responsibility to homeowners. They plan to discuss the issue in August.

Unemployed Homeowners May Get Federal Relief

It seems that there may be more hope for all of those Bay State unemployed homeowners who are living on a prayer that their homes will not be foreclosed. The Boston Herald reports that President Obama is planning to sign legislation that aims to help unemployed homeowners with $1 billion in federal aid.

This news is like music to ears of residents like Nylton Andrade who lost his job as a graphic design teacher for Madison Park Technical Vocational High School in Boston last June. He told the Boston Herald that he worries that his home in Brockton will be foreclosed. He said that the federal legislation could be just what he needs. He said: "This program will help us and lots of families." 

Foreclosures In June Force Many To Call A Boston Real Estate Lawyer

It seems that more residents of the Bay State may need to have a Boston real estate attorney on speed dial. While we have reported that sale have gone up in certain spots of the real estate market, the number of foreclosures in June have doubled when compared to June 2009. The Boston Globe reports that based on the data taken by the Warren Group, the first half of 2010 indicates a 56.7 increase in foreclosures  when compared to the same time period in 2009.

Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of Warren Group, told the Boston Globe that the number of foreclosures this year could overcome the number of foreclosures for 2008. In 2008, more than 12,000 Massachusetts residents lost their homes to foreclosure. He told the Globe: "The figures are staggering." Most of these foreclosures can be blamed on the Great Recession versus the housing bubble directly. Due to more and more homeowners losing their jobs, facing reduced hours or pay cuts, these homeowners are falling behind on mortgage payments.

Boston Condo Market Makes a Comeback

The Boston Globe reports that the Boston condo market looks like it is coming back with strong sales. Sales increased by 30 percent in the second quarter of 2010 when compared to sales from the same time period in 2009.

We have written about how strong the Boston condo market has been when we explained to readers what exactly a condo is.

While this is good news, especially for a Boston real estate lawyer, it is important to note that median selling prices dipped 3-6 percent in the same quarter.  

Ask A Boston Real Estate Lawyer About Necessary Repairs In Rentals

We have written about how landlords must provide tenants with a rental unit that is "habitable." However, if you ask a Boston real estate attorney, he or she will tell you that while it is the law, not all landlords abide by the law.

First, what is the definition of "habitable" in Massachusetts law?

According to Massachusetts Sanitary Code (105 C.M.R. 410), "habitable" is defined as a place that is clean and comfortable enough for a person to live safely.

What happens if the landlord fails to provide a "habitable" rental unit?

If a landlord does not make the appropriate repairs to a rental unit in order to make it habitable, a tenant has a few different options.

Tenant Rights: What Your Landlord Can Do About A Noisy Neighbor

If you live in a rental in Boston or any other city, you know all about noise. While most Boston tenants think that they have to "deal with it," there are legal avenues that you can possibly navigate with the help of your landlord and a Boston real estate lawyer.

In Boston, if you live in a rental such as an apartment, you can ask for help about a noisy neighbor from your landlord. According to the Good Neighbors Handbook supplied by the Rental Housing Resource Center of Boston, a tenant has the right to enjoyment of a rental property. If something impacts that enjoyment, it is known as a Quality of Life issue.

Rights Of A Tenant In Boston

We have written at length about issues that you may run across as a tenant such as when your landlord can enter your rental, when you can get your security deposit back, etc. But what exactly should a person know about their rights as a tenant in Boston?

While you can always ask a Boston real estate lawyer, here are a just a few things that a typical tenant should know:

Rights Against Unlawful Discrimination: Massachusetts law forbids discrimination in housing based on basis of race, religion, national origin, age, ancestry, military background or service, sex, sexual preference, marital status, blindness, deafness, or the need of a guide dog, except owner-occupied two family dwellings (M.G.L. c. 151B, ยง 4).

Merrimack Valley Sees A Rise In Foreclosures In Fixed Rate Mortgages

The Boston Globe reports that more homes owned by long term owners with fixed rate mortgages are falling prey to foreclosure in Merrimack Valley. According to a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, this is most likely due to job losses. While the losses incurred from the housing bubble have subsided, it seems that there are more losses by people who have owned their home for at least ten years with reasonable mortgage terms. Those are losses are probably because of unemployment or underemployment.

Juan Bonilla, director of homeownership education for Lawrence Community Works, sums up the shift in foreclosures: "We are seeing 50 to 60 percent of our clients with traditional fixed-rate mortgages, where a year or two ago it was 95 percent with adjustable mortgages." A lot of these families are seeing a loss in family income due to layoffs, shortened hours, or cut overtime. Some households purchased the home with two incomes but are now left with one.

Boston's Foreclosure Prevention Initiative Brings Hope

The city of Boston has been trying to fight back foreclosures since 1996 with its Foreclosure Prevention Initiative program. While it is always helpful to speak with a Boston real estate lawyer when you are worried about your house going into foreclosure, the City of Boston wants to make sure that homeowners don't have to get to that point.

There is something known as the Boston Home Center which is offered as a one stop destination for information and advice for first time homebuyers. Boston has been keeping track of foreclosures in the city in order to provide comprehensive foreclosure prevention services. As a result, Boston offers consumer outreach, information and counseling in order to prevent predatory lending to Boston homeowners, and workout strategies.

The Importance of Neighbor Relations

We have covered some typical neighbor disputes such as spite fences, trees, and even blocking a neighbor's view. A Boston real estate lawyer would probably advise on ways to prevent such disputes from even happening by giving a few recommendations for friendlier neighbor relations. Here are some of our tips:

  • Consider your neighbors when making use of your property. Think about how what you do affects them.
  • Ask your Boston real estate attorney to check the title and deed for things such as restrictive covenants, local zoning ordinances, and state laws before you renovate or expand your property.

Condo Sales On The Rise: What Is A Condo?

According to the Boston Herald, condo sales are up in Boston from a year ago. A total of 2.085 condos changed ownership in June which is up from the 1,634 sales in June 2009. The average price of a condo went up to $287,000 in June. This is a 4 percent rise from the June 2009 median price of condos which was $275,000.

While this is certainly exciting news in the Boston real estate market, it has many average buyers asking their Boston real estate attorney:

Energy Code May Drive Up Home Prices

While it may seem like homeowners could save some green by going green, the Massachusetts Home Builder's Association say that the Bay state's "stretch energy" code could cost homeowners. The Boston Herald reports that the association has criticized Gov. Deval Patrick for creating economic incentives for municipalities to adopt the energy code because the group claims that the code disrupts the uniformity of the state code, makes enforcement of the code difficult, and that it is confusing.   

The stretch energy code, which has been adopted by 26 municipalities to date, is an appendix to the state energy code. It is an appendix that provides municipalities with the option to adopt an energy code for buildings that would have greater energy efficiency.

Right To A View: Neighbor Disputes Over Views

What do you do when your neighbor decides to renovate his home, plant a tree, or somehow obstruct the nice view you have? Generally, according to FindLaw, it seems that you may be out of luck. Most homeowners do not have a right to a view unless it has been granted by an ordinance in the homeowners' municipality or subdivision.

While some cities have adopted ordinances that protect the right to a view, it typically does not cover buildings and other structures. You can ask a Boston real estate lawyer about your specific area's ordinance (if they have one). A view ordinance will cover a pesky tree that is overgrown. The complaining neighbor can sue the owner of the tree in court with the help of a Boston real estate attorney. This can result in a court order that requires the tree owner to restore the view.

Housing Discrimination Affects Tenant Safety Rules

A Boston Globe reader who manages an apartment complex recently asked Janet Portman if a tenant safety rule forbidding children from riding bikes in a parking lot would be a form of housing discrimination.

Surprisingly, a Boston real estate attorney would say that the answer is yes. According to FindLaw, a rule that targets children would be a form of housing discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. This is because one of the protected classes under the Fair Housing Act is familial status. The other protected classes are based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and handicap or disability.

Boston Grill Law Puts Heat On Tenants and Building Owners

The Boston Herald reported about how a four alarm fire was caused by two illegal rooftop gas grills earlier this week. If you were to ask a Boston real estate lawyer, that lawyer would tell you that any propane gas grills above the first floor of a building in Boston is illegal. On top of this grill law, all grills on any rooftop, deck, or fire escape that uses charcoal is illegal.

If you are planning to use a grill this summer, the City of Boston recommend the following tips for grilling so that you don't end up in a war with your insurance company or neighbors who sustain damage from a fire.

When Can A Landlord Deduct From A Rental Security Deposit?

In spite of the common notion that landlords can deduct from a rental security deposit for just about anything, that is not necessarily the case.

First of all, most tenants are not aware that a rent deposit is separate from a rental security deposit. A Boston real estate lawyer would tell you that a rent deposit is the pre-payment to the landlord for the last month of a lease or tenancy.

A rental security deposit is a deposit of money to the landlord to ensure that rent will be paid and other responsibilities of the agreement will be performed such as maintenance of the rental unit.

Pending Sales Down In June

It seems like even though home prices are dropping, there is still a dip in pending sales for the month of June. According to the Boston Herald, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors says that the number of single family homes put under agreement in the Bay state dropped 16 percent when compared with June 2009.

MAR President Kevin Sears released a statement that said that the summer months will be an indicator of the Massachusetts real estate market recovery. He said, "While we can anticipate the number of closed sales in June going up, the summer months will give us a better understanding of where the market is and whether affordable prices and interest rates below the five-percent range will keep the market moving along." 

Chapter 40B Housing Project Slated In Concord

The Boston Globe reports that there will likely be a new affordable housing project in West Concord  soon. The project, which was proposed two years ago by Trammell Crow Residential, is a 350 unit affordable housing project in Concord's southwest corner near Maynard, Acton and Sudbury. The project was proposed under Massachusetts' Chapter 40B affordable housing law.

Robb Hewitt, vice president of development at Trammell Crow told the Boston Globe that the project will probably commence soon thanks to lines of financing finally opening up: "The financing world has loosened up a little bit. We don't have final documents signed, but it's a 90 percent probability."

It's A Buyer's Market: Boston Home Prices Drop

The Boston Herald reports that many sellers are dropping their asking prices in Boston. Boston home prices dropped an average of 8 percent off the original asking price. If you ask a Boston real estate lawyer, the reason for the drop in Boston home prices stem from the end of the tax credit. Sellers, eager to quickly make a sale, are dropping prices in order to entice buyers.

Rick Healey, broker-owner at Foster-Healey Real Estate in Fitchburg told the Boston Herald that sellers are becoming more grounded: "Sellers are realizing there's no artificial stimulus to help the market, so they're lowering prices. The demise of the tax credit has brought a sense of reality to pricing."

Your Boston Real Estate Lawyer Warns Against Strategic Default

It seems that Fannie Mae is ready to crack down on homeowners who have decided that strategic default was the way to go. If you ask a Boston real estate lawyer, strategic default is when a homeowner can pay the mortgage on a home but the homeowner decides to walk away  from the mortgage anyway.

The new Fannie Mae policy against strategic default includes block out period of seven years from the date of foreclosure for a new Fannie Mae backed mortgage loan. Even then, Fannie Mae did concede that some borrowers who have extenuating circumstances may be eligible for a loan sooner rather than later.

Jury Awards Over $2.5 Million In Real Estate Discriminaton Case

WCVB Boston reports that a jury in Plymouth county has awarded one of the largest awards in its history over a real estate discrimination case.

Plaintiffs Donald Prescott, Julie Prescott, and Scott Hyman claimed that Hemlock Associates of Lakeville, Inc. had violated their civil rights because of anti-Semitic acts that they were subjected to by the homeowner's association. Some of these acts included hate mail and having their properties defaced with hateful Nazi swastikas. The plaintiffs also allege that they had to endure police complaints unnecessarily.