Massachusetts and housing associations: The basics

Housing associations are popular in Massachusetts. Those looking to establish an association can benefit from a basic understanding of the process.

Housing associations are popular in Massachusetts. The state ranked seventh nationally for the number of associations by the Foundation for Community Association Research, a nonprofit organization that focuses on community research in the homeowner and condominium association industry.

The organization reports that Massachusetts has 11,800 associations. These associations include homeowners' associations, condominiums and housing cooperatives. The Foundation reviewed a national survey of these associations and found that the vast majority of Americans who live in these communities report having a positive experience. Generally residents are satisfied with their governing boards and the rules and regulations that are a part of their communities. In fact, one of the core cited reasons for the growth of these associations is the value of collective management.

Homeowners' associations provide an example of this, managing issues like safety, property maintenance and other services that may not be provided by local governments. Having a basic understanding of these structures can help those who are considering joining, starting or who may have a dispute with the organization.

Formation of a homeowners' association

Various legal documents are required to start a homeowners' association in Massachusetts. Examples include:

  • Articles of incorporation. These articles must be filed with the Secretary of State. These documents contain general information including the name, purpose and effective date of the association.
  • Map. The association must also provide a recorded map or "plat" that defines each owner's property as well as common areas owned by the association.
  • Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. These are restrictions to the deeds. Also known as CC&Rs, these documents often contain information about expectations regarding external appearances of homes and property, generally aimed at providing a uniform neighborhood. This section may also include information about a required association fee used to help maintain common areas.
  • Bylaws. The bylaws include the rules that are used for the management and administration of the association.

These are just a few of the more common steps needed to start a homeowners' association.

Importance of legal counsel

Associations are generally governed by state law. State laws are fluid and those looking to establish an association must stay abreast of changes. This, in combination with the many nuances inherent to associations, makes it wise for those wishing to establish a homeowners' or other association to seek the legal counsel of an experienced real estate transactions and contracts attorney. This legal professional can guide you through the process, assisting in drafting governing documents and other legal needs that may arise.