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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012

    Default Distinction Between Relatives and Tenants of Unit Owners

    I am a trustee of a condominium in Massachusetts. Our docs permit only one lease (in writing) per year per Unit, with a minimum 6-month term. The docs also state that an owner cannot rent less than an entire unit. The Board has added rules that the lease must include a clause stating that the tenant(s) is subject to the condo
    docs including the rules promulgated by the Board, and the Unit owner must provide a copy of the lease to the Board before the rental begins to permit the Board to check that the lease is in compliance.

    We have a situation in which we believe that a resident Unit owner is taking in boarders. However, the Unit owner has always claimed that the person(s) is a relative: an aunt, a cousin, etc. The Massachusetts condo statutes state that Unit owners must identify occupants to the Board after 30 days of residence. However, there is no guidance as to who is a tenant as opposed to family. Are parents of Unit owners tenants when they come to help with a newborn child? How about sisters or brothers? We have another Unit in which a husband is the sole Unit owner on the deed; is his wife his tenant? The Board feels it is in a position in which it has to define who is a tenant that must have a lease and who is a family member occupant that is not named on the Unit deed. It is not clear where to draw the line. Does anyone have any experience with this situation?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008

    Default Re: Distinction Between Relatives and Tenants of Unit Owners

    I would be careful on this.

    I was a condo owner in MA, bought one condo for my sister where I made the down payment, "she and I" are co-owers on the deed, but she lives there, I live in NY. She was single at the time, but later re-married. If you try to compare the names of the deed to the names of the people living there, you'll come up with the conclusion her new husband is a boarder, and only I'm supposed to live there. The only reason I'm on the deed orginally was I paid for the condo. I included her on the deed, because in condo situations, I know it's easier if you're the owner of record on the deed as your questions here indicates.

    Now, imagine if I didn't include her on the deed, as I just bought a condo for her to live in, which is what I did. Supposed she's not paying me any rent which would be the case. So the HOA is now going to make me make up a lease with "zero" rent due every year?? This is not an uncommon situation as well, as parents have bought condos for their children to live in while in college, don't charge rent, pay all the fees, and the parents live out of state.

    Then, I had another condo in that building I rent out. Typically roommates, boyfriend-girlfriends, husbands-wife comes to rent. I'll have to say with the cost of living, it's tough to rent an apartment all by yourself these days even though some people may prefer that. For the same reason, I know owners take in roommates for the same reason roommates come to rent. Renters split the rent, whereas the owner has someone helping with the mortgage, HOA fees, utlities, and that's pretty common as well.

    I've even been told some elderly owners started taking on roommates, because you can only stretch social security and pensions so far. If you tell retired owners "they can't have boarders", soon you'll have units unable to pay HOA fees.

    And I'm not even sure how legal it is to tell an owner he can't have a roommate, especially if renters are all allowed roommates. In some states, it is not even legal to say only married people can co-habitate a unit, so you'll get into some lawsuit forcing some owner to say that "OK, you got me, it's my gay lover, not my cousin". And if you say a gay lovers can't live there, you're looking at a lawsuit. Or you may be forced to have a rule where only gay lovers can live together (to conform to the law), but a straight person is a boarder and not allowed, so you'll now be discriminating against straight people.

    For these reasons, you'll be on safe ground just asking for the names of the people living there, maybe limiting the number of people per unit based on the number of bedrooms. In the condo complex where I own the rental condo, the management company tracks people living in the units, and only people registered to live in the unit are assigned keys to the front door, and the keys are stamped such that the tenants can't make extra copies.

    But don't start getting after people for "taking in boarders", because living relationships are so complicated.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2012

    Default Re: Distinction Between Relatives and Tenants of Unit Owners

    Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed reply, SChinFChin. I appreciate that you took the time to write it. I see now that it can be a slippery slope. SciMan

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