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June 2011 Archives

Buying a Home Next to a Sex Offender? Check the Registry

There are many considerations when buying a home. Price. Number of bedrooms, bathrooms. School districts. Granite countertops.

But many home buyers, especially buyers with young children, may not be aware of one of the most important considerations -- is your new neighbor a registered sex offender?

The Boston Globe recently posed the question of what a listing agent's duty was to notify potential buyers that the person living next door was a level-three sex offender.

The answer is that there is no duty.

Home Market Foods Creating a Nuisance for Neighbors?

A neighborly nuisance dispute is cooking up between a Norwood resident, Bill Clough, and neighborhood meat factory Home Market Foods.

The cause of the dispute? The constant smell of barbecue.

According to Wicked Local, Clough opened his window one morning several months ago and noticed a meat-cooking smell. Clough initially ignored the odor as the smells of a nearby restaurant.

But as the smell persisted for the next few days, then weeks, then months, Clough discovered that the meat smells were actually coming from Home Market Foods, a nearby factory that produces meatballs and meatloaf.

Whitey Bulger's Rent-Controlled Apartment

One of the interesting things revealed from the FBI’s arrest of Whitey Bulger is the fact that he’s been living in a rent-controlled Santa Monica apartment for at least the past 15 years. What this means is that Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, have paid at most $1,145 a month for a two-bedroom two-bath apartment three blocks from the beach reports The Boston Globe. Without rent controls, the unit would have been rented for at least twice that amount.

Bulger, the 81-year old gangster who’s been on the run from the FBI since 1994, was arrested outside his three-story Santa Monica apartment building. According to the Globe, Santa Monica city records show that the unit was continuously occupied by the same tenants since rent control laws took effect in 1999. The rent control laws limit how much landlords could raise rents for existing tenants, allowing landlords to use the market rental rate only for new tenants.

AG Coakley Highlights Proposed Law Preventing Foreclosures

In a press release, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley highlighted portions of a speech she gave before a group of real estate professionals discussing a proposed law that would help in preventing foreclosures in the Bay State.

The proposed law, An Act to Prevent Unnecessary and Unreasonable Foreclosures, is aimed at helping homeowners remain in their homes. In her press release, Attorney General Coakley pointed out several requirements in the new law targeting creditors that would further this goal:

Zoning Targets Jerry Remy's Plan for Rooftop Bar at Fenway

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) approved changes to its zoning laws following plans by Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar and Grill at Fenway to add rooftop seating at its restaurant. Under the new law, restaurants that want to add rooftop dining or drinking in the Fenway neighborhood will first have to seek input from the community as well as meet other requirements before opening reports The Boston Globe.

According to the Globe, the row over rooftop seating started when Jerry Remy’s announced plans to add a 350-person capacity rooftop bar without ever seeking community input and without needing any special licenses. Fenway residents were upset by these plans expressing concern over the noise and lights from the bar.

Boston Homes Still Overvalued Despite Decrease in Prices?

As home prices continue to decline in Boston, it may still be very difficult to buy a decent home within your budget. In fact, The Boston Globe argues that it may actually be more difficult to find a good home amid the real estate downturn.

According to the Globe, many of the homes on the market are aging homes, homes in desperate need of care, or homes near major highways. So despite lower home prices, buyers are running into problems finding a livable abode and when they do find one, they usually have to enter a bidding war to buy the home -- thereby jacking up the cost.

Resolving two separate lawsuits, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced settlements with real estate companies charged with violating state housing discrimination laws.

In the first case, LegalNewsline reports that Top Real Estate & Development Inc. settled a claim that it violated discrimination laws by refusing to rent or show apartments to a pregnant woman. Last year, Top Real Estate allegedly refused to show a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy an apartment the company was advertising. The state claimed that Top Real Estate did not want to rent to the pregnant woman because renting to her would have required repainting the apartment in accordance with lead paint laws. Under the terms of the settlement, the company agreed to abide by state discrimination laws and pay $2,000 to the state and victim.

The Sudbury Zoning Board allowed Betsy’s Buddies dog kennel to expand its dog boarding business from three to four dogs. This one added pooch created quite a dog-fight in the small historic Boston suburb reports SudburyPatch.

Betsy’s Buddies has been in operation for about a year boarding up to three dogs. According to Patch, the owner of Betsy’s, Elizabeth Orlando, sought to expand the business to board an extra dog while also seeking permission to walk up to four dogs at the same time.

230,000 Mass. Homeowners Underwater with Mortgage Debt

A study by CoreLogic reported that more than 230,000 Massachusetts homeowners are “underwater,” owing more money to lenders than what their homes are worth. According to The Boston Globe, the average underwater homeowner in Massachusetts owns a home valued at $120,000 less than the amount owed to a lender.

The study also reports that Massachusetts ranks second only to New York in underwater borrowers, and that nationwide, 10.9 million homeowners owe an average of $65,000 more than the value of their homes.

Days after the tornado landed in western Massachusetts, streets in one Springfield, Massachusetts neighborhood still lie in ruins. The Boston Globe reports that homes in this particular neighborhood have been torn from their foundations, have been destroyed by fallen trees, and many of the homes left standing have been rendered uninhabitable.

According to the Globe, homeowners are now left in a very vulnerable position. When not sifting through piles of debris from what was once their homes, homeowners are standing guard on their front porches protecting themselves from the looting that has also hit the city.

Senator Kerry: Mass. Homebuyers Shouldn't Have to Put 20% Down

Senator John Kerry is taking up the cause of homebuyers in Boston and elsewhere. This week, Senator Kerry asked federal regulators to rethink a proposal that would force qualified buyers to make down payments of at least 20% when seeking a low-interest mortgage.

The senator believes that this kind of down payment will disqualify too many credit-worthy homebuyers and further depress the still struggling housing market, reports The Boston Globe. The proposal that has Senator Kerry concerned stems from the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Some will be familiar with the more well publicized protections of the Financial Reform Act which include a new consumer protection agency and the prevention of the "too big to fail" situation which lead taxpayers to bail out Wall Street financial firms. However, there are also sections of the law which were passed in part to protect borrowers from the kind of high-risk lending that helped bring about the financial crises and burst the real estate bubble.

First Realty President William Kargman Honored, Sued

A proposed award has put the spotlight on a debate, and a lawsuit, over affordable housing in Boston. The non-profit organization B’nai B’rith Housing New England has said it plans to honor the developer William Kargman, president of First Realty Management Corp. However, advocacy groups say Kargman does not deserve an honor for his work in developing low income and Section 8 subsidized housing in Boston, he deserves a lawsuit instead.

Kargman’s company, First Realty, has been held up as an example of a developer in affordable housing in Boston, reports The Boston Globe. However, now that 40-year-old federal program deals are coming to an end, First Realty is facing criticism for ending rent subsidies in properties in Roslindale and the Fenway.