Condo Unit Owner Not Responsible for Special Assessment
Bobby Rudolph obtained a unanimous decision from the Massachusetts Court of Appeals affirming judgment in favor of RF’s client, a condominium owner, who was improperly assessed a portion of the cost to demolish and rebuild the condominium building’s parking garage. The parking garage, located behind the building, shared one common wall with the condominium’s common area trash room, which was also demolished as part of the project.
The building, located on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay, has nine condominium units, but only six of the units have garage parking and storage spaces. The condominium’s trustees imposed a special assessment for nearly $1 million on all nine unit owners to rebuild the garage, storage spaces and trash room. The firm’s client owns a unit without parking and storage and objected to the special assessment because he has no access to, use of, or benefit from the garage. In order to avoid having a lien placed on his unit, he paid the assessments under protest.
Bobby filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court and sought a declaration that the condominium trust could not impose any costs on RF’s client to repair, maintain or replace the parking garage. The condominium trust filed a cross-motion for summary judgment seeking a court order that the firm’s client had to contribute to the new garage, arguing that the structural elements (walls, beams, etc.) were common area. Bobby appeared before the Superior Court with RF partner Jon Friedmann for oral arguments. After hearing from Bobby and the attorney for the condominium trust and reviewing written submissions, the trial court judge found in favor of RF’s client.
The condominium trust then appealed the trial court’s decision to the Massachusetts Court of Appeals. After hearing oral arguments and reviewing appellate briefs, the three-judge appeals panel ruled in favor of RF’s client, holding that he should be refunded all payments he made towards the garage project and is only responsible for his share of the costs associated with the renovations of the common area trash room.