Q&A: Snowed In

Q. I own a condo in a small brownstone in Boston.  We have three owners and four parking spaces accessed via the alley in back of the building.  Our titles indicate we each have the “right to use” a specific spot or spots.  The spaces are two sets of two tandems, i.e., two fronts (nearest the building) and two backs (behind the front spaces and adjacent to the alley.)  We have no management company and we all shovel snow out of our own parking spaces.  

I happen to own one of the front tandems, so when it snows heavily, I rely upon the back tandem space owner to shovel his space so I can exit.  He has done this for the past five years that he owned, as have the previous owners. There was no car in the space behind me during the recent 14” blizzard. Two days after the blizzard, I received an email stating that he was not going to shovel anymore and if I wanted to move my car, I could shovel his space.  This was totally unexpected, unprecedented and poorly timed – at that point, the temperature had dropped to negative levels and the snow was like concrete. In any case, I certainly don’t want to have to shovel a space that is not mine and I am forbidden to use/park in. I am hoping for some advice stating that this is not only un-neighborly but in some way illegal? Right of way, easement, etc.  

                                         —Winter Weary

A. “A starting point for most questions of this type is usually the association’s governing documents, master deed, trust and/or by-laws,” says Pamela Jonah, partner in Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC in Braintree, Massachusetts.  “Often times the documents will dictate who has the responsibility to maintain i.e., remove snow from parking spaces depending on whether they are owned by the Unit or instead common area.

 “Putting the association’s documents aside, the fact that you have a grant of easement to go across the tandem parking space behind yours does not automatically require the owner of the right to use said spot the obligation to clear the spot for you. Your right is one of access across, unless otherwise stated. As such, absent a direction from either the association’s documents or the grant of easements on record at the Registry of Deeds, the owner with the right to use the spot behind yours may refuse to remove the snow.”

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