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Little Neck - Hard to Swallow. "Solution" Chokes Community.

Atty. Rich Kallman

The sale of Little Neck in Ipswich, MA to its cottage owners will forever be one of the watershed events in this town's long and storied history.  Regardless of your position with respect to the sale, we should all take a moment to recognize that life on Little Neck for its residents will never be the same.  Generations of families summered on that drumlin seemingly unaffected by the social or political issues of the day that swirled around the remainder of the town.  Those families were not the cause of the town's budget crises of the last ten years but those issues propelled them into a public spotlight that I am sure they all look forward to dimming as the divisiveness recedes into the past.

I was fortunate to represent several cottage owners in their purchase whose families had owned their cottages for generations.  The personal stories they recounted as I met with each of them helped me to appreciate the unique sense of community that embodied Little Neck more than if I had lived my whole life in Ipswich.  Many of the buyers were not happy or even relieved to purchase their "condominiums."  They were painfully aware that the fabric of their community had already been stretched by the legal proceedings of the last several years and perhaps torn forever. I imagine that many other purchasers that I did not meet are experiencing the same sense of apprehension.

The days of policing social behavior with a simple phone call to a neighbor or a discussion over a cup of coffee on the front porch will be threatened by a regime of rules and regulations foreign to those who grew up on Little Neck.  Is your neighbor parking on the "Common Area" or your "Limited Common Area?" Now, you can call one of the Trustees or if you wish to be more impersonal, file a complaint with the soon to be hired management company.  Is your neighbor's clothes line blocking your water views?  Just report them to the condominium association.  Matters as simple as nighttime lighting, taking in trash cans on a timely basis and mowing the grass are all regulated under the condominium rules that are now in force.

I, for one, hope that the terms "condominium," "rules and regulations", "common area" and "limited common area" remain as foreign to those lucky enough to enjoy living on Little Neck as they were just a few short months ago.  Only time will tell.  But, I am not optimistic.  Land ownership typically triggers increased expectations of control, privacy and a sense that everyone must adhere to the same rules even when no one really suffers from slight variations or reasonable exceptions.

As I represented each buyer at closing, I, too, felt a sense of loss for the community that was known as "Little Neck" that is now formally named "The Condominiums at Little Neck."  It's the end of an era and all Ipswich residents should recognize the loss.

Legal Insider Content Contributed by Attorney Richard M. Kallman. Contact Atty. Kallman at 978-356-2934 or

Landlords Beware! Thinking of Buying a Multi-Family? Read This!

Could it get any worse in Massachusetts for residential landlords?  The answer is a loud YES.

Northeast Housing Court Judge David Kerman ruled in the recent case of Sheehan v. Weaver  a landlord is "strictly liable" for a drunk tenant's fall through a defective porch guardrail.  The Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog cites this as "yet another case demonstrating Massachusetts' inhospitable legal environment towards residential landlords."  The case involved Sheehan, the drunken tenant, falling from the roof of a structure owned by Weaver consisting of three residential top units and one floor level commercial unit.  The landlord argued his structure should not be considered a commercial "building" within the meaning of the Building Code's strict liability provision as it was predominantly residential.     Judge Kerman disagreed ruling "[T]he structure in this case may well be at the outer margin of the class of structures that fall within the ambit of the term 'building' in the strict liability law," ..... "However, it is my opinion that the mixed residential-commercial four-unit non-owner-occupied structure in this case is 'commercial' and 'public' enough to fit within the term 'building' in section 51."   The landlord was faced with 100% strict liability; there was reduction for the drunken tenant's own negligence.

The trend in Massachusetts is grossly skewed to the right of tenants.  The courts are incredibly forgiving and insanely lenient to residential tenants.  The bottom line is - LANDLORDS BEWARE!

Legal Insider contributed by Atty. Judy Field

Judy A. Field, Esq. Law Office of Judy A. Field, P.C. 900 Cummings Center, Suite 306T Beverly, MA 01915 landline (978) 922-0330 cell (978) 500-9530 fax (978) 922-0661 email:

Justice or A Joke? You Decide!

After wrongful foreclosure practices came to light in October 2010, attorneys general from all 50 states joined forces together with the federal government to punish five large financial institutions - Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Ally Financial - for mortgage related misconduct, including "robo-signing" and failing to provide mortgage modifications to eligible homeowners.  It now appears that a $25 billion settlement is near, but whether it adequately punishes the offending lenders or lets them off the hook is a matter of considerable debate. The Wall Street Journal reports on Why a New Refinance Program Faces Long Odds - click to read.

While all of the details of the settlement have yet to be released, it appears the bulk of the money ($20 billion) would be used for principal reduction and refinancing programs for borrowers in danger of foreclosure, with the remaining $5 billion going to those directly affected by the foreclosure violations, with the wrongfully foreclosed homeowners receiving an average of $1,800. (Yes, folks, I said $1,800!)  Estimates are that the $20 billion would reduce the average mortgage balance of approximately 100,000 homeowners whose homes are under water by $20,000.  However, there are approximately 2.3 million homes in the foreclosure pipeline that are under water by an average of $60,000, so opponents of the settlement argue that the proposal isn't nearly punitive enough.  When you consider that taxpayers bailed out these same lenders to the tune of $600 billion, you can certainly understand their position.  But, we are in an election year, so President Obama clearly wants to announce a settlement to appeal to his supporters as a champion of consumers. The Wall Street Journal gives us answers to six questions on Obama's Mortgage Refinance Proposal - click here!

Assuming the federal government announces a settlement soon, the major question is whether all 50 attorneys general will approve the settlement, thereby effectively capping the liability that these five major lenders face from their deceptive lending and mortgage practices.  Massachusetts and California are two of the states threatening to refuse to accept the settlement.  For those many citizens that believe the federal government was responsible for the lack of oversight that led to the improper lending practices in the first place and then assisted those lenders with a bailout at the taxpayers' expense, the federal government is again letting the lenders off the hook with a settlement that will hardly impact them. And speaking of improper practices, click here to read about how JP Morgan embarrassed themselves when they wrongly foreclosed on 14 active military families.

Is it still business as usual between lenders and the federal government? That's a question each of us will have to decide for ourselves. Meanwhile the big banks are banking on spending to read.

What's your take on the foreclosure crisis? Do you think Obama's refinance program could work? Discuss!

Legal Insider Content Contributed by Attorney Richard M. Kallman. Contact Atty. Kallman at 978-356-2934

Legal Insider - The Wake of Irene

Hurricane Irene has left her mark - trees have fallen- now what?

In this day and age of our litigious society and our complete neglect to remain friendly with our neighbors, the issue of trees has become more and more problematic.  If we lived in a perfect world and neighbors actually got along, a simple conversation from one neighbor to another noting a diseased or decayed tree would be remedied by the property owner wherein the tree is located acknowledging the risk and removing the tree.  If the property owner chooses to ignore the risk, a decayed tree on their property poses the risk that he or she will be exposed to liability.  You as a neighbor and abutting land owner do have the right to remove limbs and branches so much as they overhang on your property.    The other remedy is unfortunately a court action wherein you would have to prove the tree poses a danger to you and interferes with your use and enjoyment of your property and request the court order the removal. 

If a neighbor's healthy tree simply falls on your property during a major wind storm your neighbor is not liable as this is considered an "Act of God".  You in turn will have to make a claim under your own homeowners' insurance policy.

Someone once said to me, "The best neighbor is a 6-foot fence." I personally prefer Judy's recommendation below.

The bottom line, do not ignore your trees nor your abutting neighbor's trees and keep the neighborly lines of communication open. 


Judy A. Field, Esq. Law Office of Judy A. Field, P.C. 900 Cummings Center, Suite 306T Beverly, MA 01915 landline (978) 922-0330 cell (978) 500-9530 fax (978) 922-0661 email:

Witness Closings - Convenient or Calamitous?

Atty. Rich Kallman


          Over the last several years, many Massachusetts homeowners may have experienced a real estate closing unlike those that they typically were party to in the past.  These closings were conducted either at their home by an attorney or at a bank branch by non-attorney bank personnel.  The agent for the lender simply witnessed the documents and notarized the homeowners' signatures.

            While the closing process may have been convenient for the borrowers, the practice was challenged legally by organizations that supported real estate closing attorneys.  In their view, conducting real estate closings involved the "practice of law" that could not be delegated to witnesses unfamiliar with the entire transaction.

            The matter is still being litigated, but the real estate bar won a crucial victory with the recent decision of Real Estate Broker Association (REBA) v. National Real Estate Information Services (NREIS).  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that attorneys must be present for closings and take an active role throughout the entire transaction.  The Court made no distinction between purchases and refinances.

            While many of you may think that attorneys are simply fighting to protect their pocketbooks at the expense of borrower's convenience, I couldn't disagree more.  I have conducted real estate closings for more than 25 years and can attest that the legal fee that a closing attorney gets from a lender today is less than what it was 25 years ago!  The fierce national competition that exists in the mortgage financing industry has forced all lenders to reduce fees to compete.  Lenders have required their closing attorneys to accept lower fees to keep working for that lender.

            Consumers definitely benefit from attorneys handling real estate closings as opposed to "witness" closings.  A witness closer will not answer any of your questions concerning the loan documents as he is paid minimally to witness only your signature.  In addition, he comes to the closing without any knowledge of the title to the property and cannot answer any questions regarding those matters.  Last, as a closing attorney, I frequently encounter undischarged mortgages that were paid off as part of a "witness" refinance.  In those instances, I have no attorney that I can contact to obtain the discharge since the only information available is the notary's name on the current mortgage and that person's position is that he was simply a witness and not responsible for any other part of the process. 

            While the litigation is still on-going, I believe strongly that having attorneys handle all aspects of a real estate closing provides quality and accountability to the closing process.  The lack of accountability associated with witness closings is a detriment to homeowners.

Legal Insider Content Contributed by Attorney Richard M. Kallman. Contact Atty. Kallman at 978-356-2934 or