Massachusetts Supreme Court Holds Condominium Association May Obtain Multiple Super-Priority Liens for Unpaid Expenses

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently held that a condominium association may obtained multiple liens on condominium units for unpaid common expenses, all of which may have priority over prior-recorded mortgages.  See Drummer Boy Homes Ass’n, Inc. v. Britton, 47 N.E.3d 400 (Mass. 2016).  Under Massachusetts law, a condominium association may obtain a “super-priority” lien on a condominium unit, which would have priority over prior-recorded mortgages so long as the amount of the lien is limited to six months’ worth of common expenses.  See Mass. Gen. Laws Ann. ch. 183A, § 6(c).  The statute further allows mortgagees on the condominium units to regain their first-priority status by agreeing to pay to the condominium association the six months’ worth of expenses, reasonable attorneys’ fees and “all future common expenses” until the mortgagee no longer has an interest in the unit. 

In the case, the court addressed a situation in which the condominium association obtained three separate liens on a unit, each for six months’ worth of expenses.  The association argued that each of the three liens held a priority position on the property over a prior-recorded mortgage.  Though the lower courts rejected this argument and held that priority was only given for one lien of six months’ worth of expenses, the Supreme Judicial Court reversed these holdings.  It held that the statute’s reference to a mortgagee paying “all future common expenses” would be inconsequential if those future liens would not have priority over the mortgage, and that this provision indicated that the legislature intended the possibility of multiple super-priority liens, as did the statute’s use of the plural term “priority liens” in certain sections.  Therefore, the court found that condominium associations may hold multiple super-priority liens on a unit so long as each lien is limited to six months of expenses.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com.