Panic buying?

If interest rates on home mortgages begin to rise, will the current frenzied market get even more crazy? Find more information here.

Ink Block Releases “Think Ink” Teaser


Today, one of the South End’s newest developments, Ink Block, released a promotional video showing off the site’s amenities and highlighting the surrounding neighborhood.

Harrison Albany Corridor: Behind the Scenes


The Harrison Albany Corridor Strategic Plan represents a development guide for the future of the strip of land sandwiched between I-90 and the more residential portion of the South End. Mayor Thomas M. Menino recognized the area’s potential for redevelopment and appointed a 30 member Impact Advisory Group to design a master plan for the area, which was predominantly a light industrial zone. The Advisory Group broke the area into four sub-areas, each with its own unique neighborhood traits that should be preserved while paving the way for future development.


The New York Streets sub-area connects the South End to Chinatown and downtown, while the SOWA area represents a mixed-use arts and residential area. Beyond that, the Back Streets sub-area houses several light industrial sites, and connects the Boston University Medical Area and associated campuses to the rest of the South End. The BRA and the Advisory Group took these requirements into consideration to design a planning document that would modify portions of the South End Neighborhood District zoning code to make the area more attractive to new, mixed-use developments.


After the Advisory Group published its strategic plan, the BRA Board of Directors approved it and the recommended zoning changes were adopted by the Boston Zoning Commission.


The flagship project for area is National Development’s “Ink Block”.  The former home of the Boston Herald, a six acre city block, will become four new buildings with 475 apartments, a Whole Foods grocery store, and street level retail. The 550,000 square foot development is scheduled to begin construction in March 2013. A new ad campaign encourages people to “Think Ink.”

See the planning documents here.

PSA: Winter Storm Nemo (Snowpocalypse)

Image courtesy NOAA

Image courtesy NOAA

The Greater Boston Area is expected to get 2-3 feet of snow over the next 24 hours. As with any severe storm, city and public safety officials are encouraging people to stay indoors and off the roads. is already reporting an overturned truck on RT-15 and WBZ notes that road conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Just a few pointers on preparing for extreme weather:

  • Stock up: Make sure you have bare essentials to last a few days. Buy assorted carbohydrates and fruit that doesn’t need to be refrigerated, so if the power goes out you’ll still have an accessible and healthy food supply.
  • Prepare for no power: Grab camping flashlights with self-powered cranks, and make sure that you have batteries for critical devices (and entertainment). As old-fashioned as it sounds, crank powered radios are also a great way to stay on top of new weather and emergency services announcements throughout the duration of the storm.
  • Check on your heat source: If you have electric radiators, make sure that you have an alternate heat source in case the power goes out. Also make sure that you have plenty of warm clothing & blankets in the event your heat stops working.
  • Prioritize aid: Have a well stocked first aid kit on hand with trauma pads and pain killers. While it may sound extreme, the storm will impede emergency transit and services. Check in on elderly neighbors and make sure that they’re set for the next few days. Offer your assistance if they need anything.
  • Games: In case of boredom, break out classic board games and play Scrabble or Monopoly.

Above all, stay safe!

Maintenance Roulette: The Importance of Clear Responsibilities

people staring at a condominium

Image courtesy of Moseman Council

Routine maintenance is a necessary for any home, from single family houses to multi-unit condominiums. While the premise of a condominium association trades privacy for amenities, one area of frequent contention is maintenance. Boundaries described in the master deed may be confusing or lack specific details on fixtures with odd dimensions, like bathtub traps that exist below unit’s boundaries, yet arguably are part of it. Countless disputes have erupted over doors, windows, and even door bells. In the case of the latter, the button technically exists outside of the unit, but controls a mechanism within it. Doors are a similar conundrum, while the deed may specify that the frame is within the common area, the door is the unit owner’s responsibility. Disputes over who should replace damaged doors is further aggravated by the utilitarian fact that doors and frames are sold as a set. Who pays for the door, and how much of the total cost are they responsible for?


A reasonable conclusion is to amend the Master Deed to include specific clauses that require unit owners being responsible for things outside of the unit’s specific dimensions. This includes windows, doors, plumbing fixtures, decks, vents, and even garage doors. Current associations will have to jump the hurdle of gaining a super majority from unit owners to make changes to the Master Deed. Trustees should inform residents that what they own and what they’re responsible for are not always mutually exclusive, even in a condominium association. There will most likely be opposition from owners that would rather push these costs on the association by declaring these fixtures part of the common areas, but revising the Master Deed, especially older ones, is a proactive step to mitigate future disputes. When revising the Master Deed, hire a lawyer with specific experience in drafting and revising condominium documents, and make sure that universal responsibilities are clearly spelled out instead of approaching in piecemeal, as many current documents do. This way, when future problems arise, there are clear-cut responsibilities for both unit owners and the association.

Five Reasons to Start Your Own Practice


Image courtesy of H.Kopp-Delaney

With many large firms collectively tightening their belts over the last three years, it is no wonder that many new lawyers fresh out of law school are looking to open a solo practice. Even many experienced lawyers are jumping the law firm ship to venture out on their own.

  • Keep more of your own money

If you are a partner or are planning to be one in the next few years, good luck. While many firms have spectacular office space downtown in modern high rises, that real estate comes with a steep monthly cost. As an individual with a financial interest in the firm, you share the burden of insurance, rent, and utilities with your partners. In some firms, these costs have become significant. While partnership does have its perks, opening a solo practice can mean substantially more money in your pocket, and your retirement plan (see #4). Solo practice costs can be much lower and you need not worry about unfunded pension obligations and other costs associated with bloated overhead.

  • Be Your Own Boss

One of the most rewarding elements of opening your own solo practice is that you can be your own boss. You will have complete control over your income and will be challenged every day to stay cashflow positive. The upside is that you have no salary cap and that you are solely responsible for your success. Your income success is not in the hands of some arbitrary manager.

  • Flexible Schedule

Another great perk of running your own show is that your schedule is super flexible. You’ll have much more family time and be able to work around competing obligations. You set your hours and the schedule of your workday, and once you have a routine, it should be easy to stick to.

  • Increase your 401 (k) contribution

We have Congress to thank for this sole practitioner bonus. As long as your LLC has one member, you can contribute $17,000 on the employee side, and up to 25% of net income on the employer side, for a combined total of up to $50,000 a year to your individual 401 (k) pre-tax. If you are over 50 years old, you can contribute an additional $5,500 under the “catch up” provision.

  • Refine your practice area

Finally, being a sole practitioner means you can focus your practice on areas of law you really enjoy. Further developing your mastery within specific areas of law will make you a stronger  and more attractive option in the marketplace. Use this to differentiate yourself in your local market.

Fast 4: Unify Your Condominium IT

broken laptop

Image courtesy of ph0rk on Flickr

Like many other small and medium size businesses, condominium associations have to have some sort of information technology infrastructure to manage and maintain their property. There are many different options for property management software out there, but today we’ll focus on a few key steps your organization can take to unify, simplify, and protect your IT infrastructure. Years ago most organizations were looking at mostly paper documentation and record keeping, with an odd laptop or desktop kicking around for printing or email. Now with the prevalence of cloud based services and associated integration methods, it might be  time your organization took IT seriously in 2013.


  1. Backup your data. It can not be stated enough. Every organization, big and small, needs at least some semblance of a regular, scheduled, backup strategy. It could be as simple as signing up for a account, which offers Dropbox simplicity with encrypted file storage and unified administration from virtually any device. Another easy option is to purchase an external hard drive from any electronics store and doing regular backups with the software built into most reasonably modern computers. These stores are vital for disaster recovery, such as cases where a computer crashes or records are damaged in extreme weather. By having a second, off site copy, your association can reduce its liability for loosing critical documents, like founding and guiding paperwork, contracts, financial records, and meeting minutes.
  2. Embrace BYOD. By embracing bring-your-own-device (BYOD), associations can minimize hardware expenditures by utilizing devices trustees already own, whether that is a laptop or an iPad. Using these in conjunction with cloud based software makes the most sense, especially when it comes to document management and reporting.
  3. Associate with your association. There are dozens of pre-fab portals and communities that your association can take advantage of to connect and converse with your neighbors in a constructive manner. While they can’t be used for all communication (some statues require residents be notified in writing) they can help foster a sense of community in between quarterly socials.  If you’re not feeling up to tacking community management, at least create a Facebook Group that you can brand & moderate, with some incentives to get residents to join in and contribute.
  4. Invest in documentation. If you’re not willing to completely overhaul your IT infrastructure, that’s ok. But at least make sure that there is ample & accurate documentation of proprietary systems, credentials, and contractors or professionals you can call if you’re stuck without access to the previous president’s email.

Top 6 Tips for Mitigating Condominium Fraud in New England


Image courtesy of Grendel Khan

Condominium associations have a lot on their plates these days: overseeing multi-unit communities, retrieving late dues, organizing board meetings, managing a multi-year budget, and being responsible for renovations & upkeep. Amidst all of these tasks, the most important one often falls to the wayside: protecting the association and its constituents from fraud. Condominium fraud is becoming more prevalent, even in New England, due in part to the lack of financial oversight that is common in many associations. Without the proper checks & balances, the opportunities for embezzlement & fraud increase dramatically. Thankfully, there are plenty of options for associations of all sizes to mitigate this risk.


  1. Break up board responsibilities. Delegating all of the banking power to one individual reduces the chance that they could be held accountable for fiscal misconduct. Assign check writing power to one member of your board and send bank statements to another.
  2. Require checks above $X amount be signed by two trustees.
  3. Schedule annual audits with an independent auditor. By having an external set of eyes on the books, potential conspirators are less likely to be tempted.
  4. Review financial statements monthly at board meetings. Make sure any anomalies are recorded in the meeting minutes and investigated thoroughly by at least two board members.
  5. Purchase fidelity insurance that specifically covers trustees, property managers, and any one else with significant access to the associations finances.
  6. Maintain and verify a reserve fund for shortfalls in the operating budget due to fraud or other emergencies.

Breeding Tensions in Massachusetts Condominiums


Image courtesy of Edward Simpson

Massachusetts initial foray into breed specific ordinances can be attributed to several enacted by the city of Lynn, MA in the 1980s. Several years later, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reviewed the ordinances and noted that the existing law was subjective in nature and relied on dog officers unrestricted discretion in dealing with potential violations. Since then, most breed based legislation has relied on standards set by the American Kennel Club to legally identify breeds in lieu of proper documentation. What does this have to do with condominiums?

Massachusetts recently amended M.G.L c. 140, Section 157, which formerly permitted breed based local restrictions. With the provision repealed, some trustees have been asking themselves if this invalidates breed based clauses in their current Master Deed. The good news is that it doesn’t. Section 157 only deals with regulations on the state, county, and city level. Condominiums are considered private property, and can set their own rules and regulations concerning everything from smoking to pet ownership. As long as an association has adopted breed specific by-laws and such are recorded in the Master Deed, it is free to restrict dogs based on breed.

Celebrating LaCasse Law 1st Anniversary!

LaCasse Law Plaque