Q&A: Who is Responsible for Condo’s Municipal Services?

Q. Can you tell if there are any condo/townhouse developments in Massachusetts where the roads are maintained and snow plowed by the municipality instead of being the responsibility of the condo/townhouse association? The roads in our condo/townhouse development are not maintained/snow plowed by the Town of Natick and yet we still pay full taxes to the town.  I have been told that that is the way it is for all Massachusetts condo/townhouse developments!

--Double Taxed

A. “Most condominium associations maintain their road and plow the streets.  In many cases, the obligation to do so was part of the Special Permit issued by the town or city and many condominium roads are not built to town specifications, which the towns claim could create liability issues,” says attorney Stephen Marcus, a partner in the law firm of Marcus, Errico, Emmer & Brooks, PC, in Braintree, MA. 

“My partner, Richard Brooks, has worked on a pro bono basis for several towns with condominiums to convince them to provide trash service as they do for single family homes. The argument is the same, that it is unfair. But case law on the topic indicates cities and towns are not responsible for these services and therefore, condominiums approach this as a political issue and go to the town officials argue the unfairness, tells the town how many condominium owners (voters) live in that town, what they pay in real estate taxes etc.

“Richard has been very successful getting trash services for condominiums.  Why should a presumably lower-valued condominium pay more than single-family homes for what were traditional municipal services in the 1960s and 1970s? New Jersey by statute does give a break to condominium owners and CAI (Community Associations Institute) on a federal level is looking at whether condominium owners should get a tax break for their condominium fees to make the system fairer. One big obstacle is that cities and towns are often cash-strapped, but I’m not sure the answer is to shift those burdens to the condominium or homeowner association owners.”

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