K.T. from Cape Cod, Massachusetts writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
We purchased the largest unit of 3 in a former single-family residence converted to 3 condo units in January on Cape Cod. The association is self-managed. According to the Master Deed our unit has 42.31% voting/ownership rights, next unit has 42.31%, the smallest end unit has 15.38%. The previous owners of our unit attached a mini split A/C-heating unit compressor to the outside wall of the smallest unit. Since we closed, that unit owner is insisting we relocate the compressor as it causes noise. We inquired with the current tenant of her unit and he reported the unit does not bother him at all. We are being told that the past owners of our unit and the smallest had a “verbal agreement” to only run the A/C compressor from May-September. This is all news to us! Now the smallest unit owner wants the condo association (which we have made several payments of HOA dues to) to pay for the relocation of the compressor at a cost of $3,000. The mini split was a plus for us in determining our purchase as we use them in our primary residence so we would prefer everything be left “as is”… as when we made our purchase. Please help! -Stuck in the Middle
Mister Condo replies:
K.T., your question reminds me of how even the smallest of condominiums (3 units in a former single-family home) can experience the largest of problems. I am truly sorry for the entanglement you now you find yourself in. When I first looked at your letter, I knew I would need to call in reinforcements as I am neither an attorney nor am I an expert in Massachusetts Community Association law. Fortunately for both of us, I do know some excellent attorneys from your state who do specialize in condominium law. One was nice enough to offer the following opinion:
“Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 183A section 5, there is a statutory method for being given the right to mount your compressor in common areas. The statue provides that a majority of the Trustees grant you the right to the limited common area of the condominium. That grant must be signed by a majority of the trustees and you and any immediately adjoining unit owners (in this case the consent of the smallest unit where the compressor was mounted). The grant then is recorded at the registry of deeds and takes effect 30 days after recording. The fact that this was done before you took ownership does not change the outcome. You (or your predecessor) have essentially taken for yourselves real estate owned by all. 3 unit condominiums can be difficult if the 3 owners do not get along. Perhaps you can propose to the smallest unit taking the compressor off of her building’s wall, restoring the exterior to its condition prior to the installation and remounting it on your building wall. If she agrees then you can record the grant of limited common area to make this legal. I’m not sure of how your condominium documents read but most for 3 unit condominiums say all owners are trustees so your neighbor is likely a recorded trustee as well. But speak to an attorney in Massachusetts knowledgeable in condominium law so that they can offer you the appropriate legal advice.”
K.T., that sounds like real proper advice to me. I wish you all the best in straightening this matter out and enjoying your Cape Cod Condo.