Real estate taxes, insurance and utilities comprise expenses that we all have come to expect as necessary incidents of property ownership. Many cities and towns in Massachusetts, however, also impose user fees for municipal services, as part of the development process, or on an ongoing basis once properties have been developed. These fees are not always legal.
A recent (unpublished) Rule 1:28 decision, Hancock v. Chambers, 85 Mass. App. Ct. 1106 (2014), reminds both condominium owners and trustees and attorneys of the care that needs to be taken when drafting-and attempting to enforce-condominium trust documents so that they ultimately make operative sense.
Municipal zoning regulations are in a constant state of flux - especially when considered in relation to the long life span of many Massachusetts' residential and commercial structures. As such, many homes and commercial properties do not conform to current zoning regulations, particularly concerning issues like frontage, side and rear yard setbacks, and floor-to-area ratio (square footage of a structure in relation to the total area of the lot). Often, these structures were built in conformance with the applicable zoning regulations, but have subsequently fallen out of compliance due to increasingly strict requirements. These structures are thus categorized as "pre-existing nonconforming", and are protected from the more restrictive zoning requirements as long as the structures remain unchanged.
It's an all too common scenario: a landowner builds something on his property, and then an abutter or neighbor thinks it is being built unlawfully and tries to stop it. In fact, let's assume that the landowner has already gone through an initial site plan review (as required by his town's zoning bylaw) and obtained a building permit accordingly thereafter.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) confirmed that its move away from the common law requirement of mutual consent for easement relocation was broad and included the ability to alter not only the location but the dimensions of easements. The SJC's decision in Martin v. Simmons Properties, LLC, on January 16, 2014 presented the SJC with its first chance to elaborate upon and expand its prior holding in M.P.M. Builders, LLC v. Dwyer, 442 Mass. 87, 809 N.E.2d 1053 (2004), discussed in detail in my article on developments in the eight years since the M.P.M. Builders decision.