Can a condominium association file a summary judgement against a owner or do we have to file a civil action first?

Asked 10 months ago - Watertown, MA

I am the de facto trustee, and another unit owner is not paying their condo fee's. I spoke to an attorney to possibly represent the association but he told me is different then what Ive read so I am seeking clarification. In recouping fees against the owner, do I have to file a suit in the form of a complaint which commences a civil action and then file a summary judgement 20 days later under that complaint? DOes that avoid the costs of a length suit. Or can I file a preliminary injunction to force him to begin repaying his fees without having to file a suit. Our association is not bound by our documents to mediation. I am looking for the quickest and most cost effective option since we are low in reserve funds. I plan to recoup attorney fees in the action but what are our options?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. E. Alexandra Golden

    Contributor Level 19

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . You don't just file a summary judgment. You must file a law suit and give the other side the opportunity to answer and conduct discovery. Summary judgment can only happen when the person filing the motion can show that there are no questions of material fact and that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Similarly, you don't get a preliminary injunction without filing a lawsuit.

    It's clear that you don't really have a grasp of legal procedure. I suggest you and the other unit owners dig into your own pockets and hire a lawyer who is well versed in condominium law.

    E. Alexandra "Sasha" Golden is a Massachusetts lawyer. All answers are based on Massachusetts law. All answers are... more
  2. Alex R. Hess

    Contributor Level 12

    2

    Lawyers agree

    Answered . Attorney Golden's Answer is spot on. Summary Judgement usually comes at the end of a lawsuit, after discovery is finished and the facts are established. You cannot file "summary judgment" without first filing a complaint, serving it properly, allowing the other side to respond, and then engaging in discovery.

  3. Christopher W. Vaughn-Martel

    Contributor Level 17

    Answered . Thank you for your question.

    Our office represents large and small condominium associations in condominium fee collection. You need to retain counsel, who can file all appropriate notices on your neighbor, including upon any mortgage holders, and then commence legal action. That really is the only way to make a delinquent owner pay. It doesn't have to be terribly expensive, and, in most cases, an owner will make arrangements to pay any deficiency and attorney's fees.

    Christopher Vaughn-Martel is a Massachusetts lawyer with the firm of Vaughn-Martel Law in Boston, Massachusetts.... more
  4. Philip M. Stone

    Contributor Level 2

    Answered . You need to file suit in order to obtain either injunctive relief, or file a motion for summary judgment. By statute in Massachusetts a condo association can recover the amount owed, plus its costs of collection. The claim is secured by a statutory lien which primes a first or second mortgage.

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