In Massachusetts, many planned communities are managed by a homeowners association (HOA). The laws governing HOAs in Massachusetts are set forth by various local and state regulations, as well as by each individual HOA’s governing documents.
Who Regulates HOAs in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, there’s no specific law that generally governs HOAs. There are laws for HOAs involving condos that can be found in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Part II Title I Chapter 183A General Laws.
Otherwise, governing documents regulate an HOA. Although every HOA is different, the governing documents typically include: Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, and other rules and regulations.
HOAs in Massachusetts may be subject to applicable federal laws such as:
HOAs may be subject to certain state laws such as:
- Fair Housing Law
- Corporations For Charitable And Certain Other Purposes Law
- General Provisions Relative to Real Property Law
How to Find HOA Regulations in Massachusetts
HOA governing documents are public record in Massachusetts. An HOA must record its governing documents with the commonwealth to be enforceable. To obtain these documents, visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts office.
Additionally, anyone can find these records online using the Massachusetts Search a Business Entity on the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth website. The website grants people access to any document filed from the HOA that does not contain personal information about parties belonging to the association.
Condominiums that are run by HOAs have a separate method of obtaining records. HOA rules and laws for condos can be found in the registry of deeds or the land registration office where the property is located.
HOA Powers in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, the HOA has the power to:
- Impose reasonable charges (monthly dues and one-off expenses)
- Regulate common areas
- Levy reasonable fines
- Foreclose on a house for unpaid liens
Additionally, HOA governing documents can grant further powers such as restrictions on membership, exterior paint colors, fencing, and parking requirements.
Can an HOA Impose Fines on a Homeowner in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, an HOA can impose fines on a homeowner for violating its rules. Charges or fees may not exceed $20 for a single offense.
HOAs that govern condos can impose higher charges for violating its rules. If any expenses have been unpaid for at least 60 days, a notice is sent to the homeowner by certified mail informing the amount owed. Expenses can include all sums assessed such as late charges, fines, penalties, and interest assessed by the HOA.
An HOA cannot fine a homeowner for (or generally prohibit) any of the following:
- Displaying the American flag so long as the flag is displayed in a manner consistent with federal flag display law
- Displaying political signs
- Installing solar panels
- Installing satellite dishes and antennas
An HOA’s governing documents may include reasonable rules and regulations regarding the placement and manner of display of the American flag, solar panels, and satellite dishes and antennas.
Can an HOA take a Homeowner’s house in Massachusetts?
An HOA in Massachusetts can foreclose on a home within its community. HOAs have the power to place a lien on a property when the owner neglects to pay their dues. If a lien goes unresolved, the HOA can foreclose on the house.
However, an HOA cannot foreclose without first mailing a notice of delinquency to the homeowner and giving the homeowner a chance to pay the outstanding debts. The notice of delinquency is sent 60 days after the unpaid fees are due. 5] The HOA governing documents contain the type of fees to include in the lien.
An HOA cannot evict a homeowner. If an HOA directly leases a residence to a tenant, they may be able to evict the tenant. Depending on how the governing documents are drafted, the HOA may also evict a tenant if the lease was not properly authorized by the HOA. Otherwise, the HOA may have other powers or restrictions about rental properties in its governing documents.
Can an HOA Enter a Homeowner’s Property in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, there is no general provision in the law that allows an HOA to enter a homeowner’s property. However, there are provisions for HOAs overseeing condos that must be included in their by-laws. These provisions include the repairs and personnel involved in the units, common areas, and facilities.
Units are solely used by the property owners, but have certain spaces that require maintenance by the HOA, such as balconies. Common elements are the shared spaces in and around the house that are collectively owned by the HOA, such as a pool. Shared utilities may include water or sewage that are provided directly through the HOA.
Except in the case of an emergency, the HOA must generally give prior notice before entering the property. Typically, an HOA will give 1-2 weeks’ notice, but notice requirements are determined by the governing documents.
Where Do Homeowner’s File Complaints against Their HOA in Massachusetts?
The venue for filing a Complaint against an HOA in Massachusetts depends on the complaint.
For complaints concerning HOA fees, a homeowner can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, homeowners may also file in state or federal court within one year of the violation date.
If a homeowner feels they are a victim of housing discrimination, they can file a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the U.S. Department of Urban Housing, or file a private lawsuit in Massachusetts state or federal court.
Otherwise, a homeowner with any other complaints can bring a claim in state court in the appropriate county.
Joining and Leaving an HOA in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there are two types of HOAs that govern joining and leaving clauses. Documents explaining the HOA and its membership rules should be presented at the closing for a new owner’s home purchase.
- Mandatory HOAs. When a person buys a home, they automatically become a member required to abide by any HOA rules listed in the governing documents. This usually includes that a homeowner is not able to leave the HOA freely.
- Voluntary HOAs. When a person buys a home, membership is a choice for each homeowner. If they choose to become a member, they may leave at any time by stopping their payments with the HOA.
To leave a mandatory HOA, a homeowner can sell their house or try to petition the HOA to have their home removed. However, there is no guarantee the petition will be granted.
How to Dissolve an HOA in Massachusetts
The process for dissolution of an HOA in Massachusetts may be set forth in the HOA’s governing documents. If it is not, a majority vote by members at an HOA meeting is required to authorize a petition for dissolution.
The petition for dissolution must be filed with the supreme judicial or superior court. Proper notice of a court date will be sent to the HOA. After the hearing, the court will make a decision regarding the dissolution.
If the court grants the dissolution of the HOA, the clerk of court will inform the state secretary of the court decision. The state secretary will then provide the clerk or agent of the HOA with a record of dissolution.
- 1 The Massachusetts Business Corporation Act
- 2 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 8
- 3 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180, § 17
- 4 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 180, § 6A
- 5 Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 183A, § 6
- 6 4 U.S.C. § 5
- 7 Jess v. Summer Hill Estates Condominium Trust
- 8 Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 184, § 23C
- 9 Over-the-Air Reception Devices Rule (OTARD Rule)
- 10 Massachusetts HOA and COA Foreclosures
- 11 Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 183A, § 11
- 12 Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 180, § 11