Questions Answered by Christopher Tolley

Q: Hello, would you be able to tell me if a statement of condition has to be completed at every lease renewal in MA?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Apr 18, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
Maybe it is required, maybe it isn't, but I can't think why you would not get one. If the tenant has damaged the unit or there is usual wear and tear you should have that documented to protect yourself. You don't want the tenant using the condition statement from the prior tenancy as evidence of the state of the unit, you want a statement showing the most current state of the unit.

Q: I'm buying my In laws house and my husband will be on the title but not the loan, do I still need a title 5 inspection?

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Apr 17, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
The DEP website says:

When you DON'T need an inspection

Transfers between certain family members: Title 5 does not require a system inspection if the transfer is of residential real property, and is between the following relationships:

Between current spouses;

Between parents and their children;

Between full siblings; and

Where the property is held in a trust. See the "Guidance on Exemptions from Title 5 System Inspections" :...

Q: Our drinking well is on a property that was sold. Does the person who bought the land need to drill us a new well?

1 Answer | Asked in Land Use & Zoning and Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Apr 12, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
If the well was on your property and you sold the land, you should have made some provision for retaining an interest in that land, like an easement, so you can keep using the well. If you did not, there may be an issue with the current owner because if you have no easement, you may not have a right to keep the well on the land. If the property with your well was owned by a third party and sold to a third party, and you had an easement for the well, you should not have to have a new well dug...

Q: A house intrust is in major disrepair whose responsible for the repairs?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Mar 22, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
The terms of the trust at issue spell out the trustee's duties and responsibilities. Trustees are generally considered responsible for upkeep and maintenance of the property, but are not usually required to expend personal funds to do so. Funds for upkeep and maintenance are usually expected to come from trust assets. If the trust at issue is a so-called nominee trust, the trustee is not permitted to act unless directed to do so by the beneficiary(ies), and the beneficiary(ies) may be the ones...

Q: Can I get my condo Title revised so that it changes the parking spot that goes with the unit? If so, how do I do this?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for Massachusetts on
Answered on Mar 4, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
Yes. If parking spaces in your condo. are deeded, you would have to trade deeds with the other unit/parking space owner. Your could also give each other reciprocal easements or licenses. If parking spaces are assigned by the condo. you might be able to get the board of trustees to switch assignments. Either way, the owner who has a right to the other space will have to agree, so I suggest you start by contacting that person.

Q: Can child support garnish both of my full-time jobs paychecks if I'm paying in full from the first jobs paycheck

1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law and Child Support for Massachusetts on
Answered on Feb 20, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
If you are paying all that is required of you from one paycheck, it does not make sense that more money would be taken out of your second paycheck. For example, if your total pay from one job equaled the amount you are currently being paid from your two jobs, and you were paying the total amount owed, I see no reason why you would be liable for more.

Q: we are currently in foreclosure, but have not heard from the atty representing the bank for several weeks. Can we sell ?

1 Answer | Asked in Foreclosure for Massachusetts on
Answered on Feb 10, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
The attorney general and banking commissioner both have foreclosure units. You should contact them and legal services. If you are willing to sell the house, you may be able to work something out with the bank's attorney to get time to do so.

Q: Why is assessment of damages hearing brought under rule 55b(2) if there has been no default?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Jan 8, 2019
Christopher Tolley's answer
The condo. association cannot hold a Rule 55(b)(2) assessment of damages hearing unless a default has entered. Most condo. association attorneys I know are diligent about complying with procedural rules for entry of default in condo. association lien collection cases. Is it possible you missed the request for entry of default. You can check the docket online at

Q: I am being sued for credit debt from midland funding ,it is a old sears account,I would like to know what steps to

2 Answers | Asked in Small Claims and Collections for Massachusetts on
Answered on Dec 14, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
There are extensive requirements for debt collectors seeking payment for old debts. A primer on consumer's rights in old debt collections is beyond the scope of an online question forum like this one. Also, the law in New York is likely different from that in Massachusetts. I have been advising both debtors and creditors on debt collection for many years, and I find this MA consumer website very informative:

I am not as...

Q: Will my property taxes increase if I add heat to a previously unconditioned outbuilding on my property?

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law and Tax Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Dec 10, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Massachusetts towns assess value annually. They calculate property values based on the market activity as well as certain property-specific attributes such as location, size, construction quality, style, and condition. These include the status of outbuildings. Factors may include the usefulness of the outbuilding with heat as opposed to unheated, whether, as a result of installation of heating, it is usable for residential or commercial purposes, etc. I suggest you call the tax assessor in your...

Q: Can I buy 3 family and legally break tenants lease due to lead in home and her children living there?

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Dec 6, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
You are likely going to face the possibility that you will have to delead the unit or the building. Online forums such as these are only useful up to a point. I strongly suggest you consult an attorney familiar with this area of the law before proceeding further.

Q: My neighbor's wall tilts about an inch and a half on my property, would it be legal for me to cut it down with my tools?

2 Answers | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Dec 3, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
I know of nothing that permits this. Destruction of another's possibly encroaching structure is always risky without specific legal sanction to do so. For example, if you are incorrect about the location of the boundary line, your neighbor will have a right to sue you for destroying the fence and possibly for trespassing on their property in order to do it. If the inch and a half is important to you I suggest you start by engaging in dialogue with the neighbor. If you cannot resolve the matter...

Q: Do gift certs expire in Mass?

1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Nov 24, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
It has to have a term of at least seven years. It has to have the issuance date and the expiration date on it. If it has no expiration date, it is good indefinitely. This applies to electronic cards. There are websites with more specifics, I suggest you check them to make sure whatever you have fits the statutory definition and there are no other applicable exceptions.

Q: I have some old debt from 2008 - can a collector garnish my wages?

1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Nov 6, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
In order to obtain a wage attachment, the creditor must have a judgment against you. The creditor is required to file a new lawsuit based on the judgment and appear before a judge to ask permission for a wage attachment. The creditor is required to give you written notice of the time date and place of the hearing. If the judge allows the motion for wage attachment, a portion of your wages is exempt from attachment. This article is a little long but explains the exemptions pretty well:...

Q: State MA - Servicer refuses full payment to cure loan default, Wired payment to their attorney, He sends personal check

1 Answer | Asked in Consumer Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Aug 2, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Call the attorney general's office or the Massachusetts banking commissioner. Both have units that deal with this type of behavior.

Q: Can a court take my social security disability for a debt judgement. Even if it my only source of income

1 Answer | Asked in Collections for Massachusetts on
Answered on Jul 30, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Unless the debts sought to be collected are child support, federal taxes or student loan repayments you owe, the answer is no. The issue is for you to be proactive, since the court may give the creditor a bank account attachment or order you to make payments because they are unaware your income or funds are from SSDI. Be sure to tell your creditors your only income is SSDI and if you have to go to court, tell the judge as well.

Q: Can the bank foreclose on my house when I'm the only one on deed and ex husband is only on the mortgage

2 Answers | Asked in Divorce, Foreclosure and Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Jul 18, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Unfortunately, the lender can foreclose on the mortgage even though only your name is on the deed and only your ex-husband's name is on the mortgage. As long as the mortgage was validly created, regardless of who gave it and who currently owns the property, a lender is always entitled to foreclose its mortgage for nonpayment. This only makes sense. If you owned a house and your name was on the mortgage, you could always avoid foreclosure for nonpayment by simply conveying the house to someone...

Q: Is the seller of the property I just bought responsible for disclosing mold on the property?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Jun 22, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Massachusetts law requires only that home sellers disclose the existence of lead paint and the presence of a septic system. Beyond this, Massachusetts is a caveat emptor state where it is up to the buyer to satisfy herself as to the condition of the property by conducting an inspection or doing whatever she feels is appropriate to determine the condition of the property. That said, the rule is somewhat stricter for brokers, and a seller cannot lie, mislead, or conceal facts about the condition...

Q: Who is responsible for repairing a retaining wall on a shared residential property line?

1 Answer | Asked in Real Estate Law for Massachusetts on
Answered on Jun 13, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Here is the misleadingly short answer: the duty to repair a wall falls on the person who altered the grade of his land, and later owners of the same property. However, there are so many fact-bound variations on this concept that stating it this way may raise more issues than it resolves. Who is responsible for repairing the wall is tied to whether you or your predecessor (or some third party) erected the wall, the state of the topography before the wall was constructed, what, if anything was...

Q: When I pass are my children responsible for any bills left behind like visa or master chg.etc.

1 Answer | Asked in Estate Planning for Massachusetts on
Answered on May 31, 2018
Christopher Tolley's answer
Your children will not likely be personally responsible for these bills, but if there are any assets in your estate like real property, bank accounts, etc., your creditors have a right to pursue your estate and seek recovery from those assets. The effect of this may be that your children's share of your estate is diminished. If you don't already have an estate plan, you should see a lawyer because you may be able to minimize creditor's ability to reach your assets after you pass. I don't do...

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