Condo Media - October 2019 - 22

Homeowner's Corner

Trash
Victories
Around
the State

Massachusetts Condo Owners
Fighting for Municipal Services
[by Richard E. Brooks, Esq.]

Condo owners usually understand that they give
up some of the rights enjoyed by single-family homeowners. The right to paint their front door any color
they choose, to play their music at any decibel level
they choose, and even to smoke in their residences, for
example, all may be prohibited by condo association rules
or covenants. But condo owners pay property taxes, just
like single-family homeowners, and they expect to receive
the same municipal services. But this is not the case in
many condominium developments, where community
associations are required to provide for their members
services the city or town provides to owners of singlefamily homes.
Trash collection, snow removal, maintenance and repair
of streets and sidewalks are on that list, but they aren't the
only examples of differential treatment. Some communities
charge condominium owners higher rates for water
consumption as well. And equal access to government
services isn't just a local issue. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) bars federal assistance to
community associations to repair damage to common
areas caused by storms or other natural disasters.
CONDOMINIUM TRASH SERVICES
Equity arguably requires equal treatment for condominium
owners, whose taxes finance services they don't receive.
And that argument has, in fact, persuaded approximately
40 Massachusetts cities and towns to provide residential
trash services they had previously denied to condo
communities. This has been a cause I have pursued for
the past 25 years, helping condo associations successfully
fight city hall in their communities.
When it comes to trash collection, municipalities fall
into one of four categories:

22

CONDOMEDIA October 2019

Those that provide trash collection to all homeowners,
including owners of condominiums.
Those that don't provide the service to any homeowners.
Those that require all homeowners to pay a fee
for the service.
Those that provide the service to single-family
owners only.
Municipalities that don't provide trash services or provide
it on the same basis to all homeowners are treating condominiums fairly. It's with communities in the fourth category
that the fight for equal treatment has been waged.
A DIFFICULT FIGHT
It's not an easy battle and it's not one all condo associations
want to fight. It requires organization, research, coordination,
lobbying, and a considerable investment of time and energy.
Some are willing to fight for the principle that condo owners
should be treated fairly; others don't think the potential
savings justify the effort. Those who fight don't always win.
We lost a close vote in one town when a city councilor, who
was otherwise sympathetic, explained, "We just closed one of
our elementary schools because we couldn't afford to sustain
it; how can we divert money to pay for trash collection at
condominium communities?" We knew we were dead in
the water there.
Some associations want to sue cities or towns that aren't
providing equal trash service to condo owners, but that
strategy isn't likely to succeed-partly because few associations
are willing to absorb the litigation costs, but mainly because
the legal arguments aren't strong. Condo ownership isn't a



Condo Media - October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Condo Media - October 2019

Contents
Condo Media - October 2019 - Intro
Condo Media - October 2019 - Cover1
Condo Media - October 2019 - Cover2
Condo Media - October 2019 - Contents
Condo Media - October 2019 - 2
Condo Media - October 2019 - 3
Condo Media - October 2019 - 4
Condo Media - October 2019 - 5
Condo Media - October 2019 - 6
Condo Media - October 2019 - 7
Condo Media - October 2019 - 8
Condo Media - October 2019 - CT1
Condo Media - October 2019 - CT2
Condo Media - October 2019 - 9
Condo Media - October 2019 - 10
Condo Media - October 2019 - 11
Condo Media - October 2019 - 12
Condo Media - October 2019 - 13
Condo Media - October 2019 - 14
Condo Media - October 2019 - 15
Condo Media - October 2019 - 16
Condo Media - October 2019 - 17
Condo Media - October 2019 - 18
Condo Media - October 2019 - 19
Condo Media - October 2019 - 20
Condo Media - October 2019 - 21
Condo Media - October 2019 - 22
Condo Media - October 2019 - 23
Condo Media - October 2019 - 24
Condo Media - October 2019 - 25
Condo Media - October 2019 - 26
Condo Media - October 2019 - 27
Condo Media - October 2019 - 28
Condo Media - October 2019 - 29
Condo Media - October 2019 - 30
Condo Media - October 2019 - 31
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Condo Media - October 2019 - 33
Condo Media - October 2019 - 34
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Condo Media - October 2019 - Cover3
Condo Media - October 2019 - Cover4
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