Q&A: Regulating Common Elements

Q Last year the parents of several teens purchased a portable basketball standard  and asked the board permission to put it in a location where their children can  use it and the board agreed. Given the layout of our property the only place to put it is near an entrance to  a parking garage. Predictably some residents complained of the noise but it was soon winter and  the standard was stored away. At the last meeting the board gave a verbal direction to the management to have  the building staff put the standard back in place. Doesn’t the board have a responsibility to issue a policy or can they just tell the  owners it is ok to use the common element space as they want? Does the management company have a responsibility to advise the board that  permission to use the common elements for the benefit of a sub-group of  residents should be covered by a policy?  

 —Playing Ball  

A “Assuming the condominium is in Massachusetts, the board generally does not have  the right to provide the exclusive use common area to a unit owner without  compliance with Massachusetts General Law Chapter 183A which requires, among  other things, permission of the adjoining owners,” says attorney Charles Perkins of the law firm of Perkins & Ancil in Westford, MA. “The other issue, of course, is whether the portable basketball stand is an  improvement which requires a vote of unit owners. At any rate, the Board should develop a policy which deals with the use of the  common area and have the same reviewed in conjunction with their counsel.  

 “Although management companies have a wealth of knowledge, ultimately, the advice  sought in this matter involves the practice of law and should be answered by an  attorney.”