Clash of the Condominium Owners

    We all know it is getting harder and harder to find our little piece of this earth to call our own. Housing prices continue to rise and the demand for houses has only gotten more competitive. This have never been more true than on Cape Cod, where one condo owner believed they owned more than their deed described.

    In a recent Land Court decision in Barnstable County Massachusetts, an owner of a condominium filed suit against the Trustees of the Condominium, stating they have acquired a piece of the common area property as their own property through adverse possession. Adverse possession is law designed to promote the use of land throughout the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts to acquire land through adverse possession, one must have exclusive use and control of property for over 20 years. This use must be done openly, so that the owner would be able to see another using the property. The person using the land must also not have permission to use the land. In the case at hand, the plaintiff met all the requirements of obtaining the common area land as their own via adverse possession.

    In this case the judge ruled against the plaintiff. Even though all the requirements for obtaining land via adverse possession were met, it violated the Massachusetts condominium laws, stating each condo owner already owns a proportional, undivided interest in the common areas, which can not be modified without the consent from the other owners in the association, and a modification of the Master Deed would be required. Furthermore to award the property to one owner via adverse possession would make the laws pertaining to the governing of condominium associations meaningless.

    It’s understandable why the court came to this decision. As more and more condominiums are built, we need well defined laws to allow them to peacefully and independently run.

    Thinking of buying or selling a condominium? Do you have questions about your current condominium or its association? Contact us at Topkins and Bevans, we have decades of experience in all types of real estate law, including condominiums.

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