Mortgage Lenders, Holders, and Servicers Beware: Massachusetts High Court Endorses Condominium Association’s Super Lien Practice

By Sean R. Higgins, Morgan T. Nickerson and Joshua Butera

In a decision that should be read as a warning to mortgage industry participants doing business in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state’s high court has validated a condominium associations’ so-called “rolling” priority lien practice, placing prior-recorded first mortgages at risk. In Drummer Boy Homes Association, Inc. v. Britton, SJC-11969 (Mass. Mar. 29, 2016), the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) held that there is no limit to the number of priority liens available to condominium associations and/or community associations for unpaid common expenses, ignoring the rights of first mortgage holders. Prior to Drummer Boy, Massachusetts courts had largely held that condominium associations were limited to a single priority lien for six months of unpaid common expenses. The SJC broke with prior decisions and held that a condominium association can enforce multiple priority liens for successive six-month periods based upon language added to the Massachusetts Condominium Act, General Laws, Chapter 183A (“Chapter 183A”) in 1998. In short, following Drummer Boy, any prior-recorded first mortgages may become junior to unlimited condominium association liens for unpaid common expenses.

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