Inheriting Tenants at a Residential Property

Our real estate lawyers at the Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC located in Lynnfield, Massachusetts are addressing the potential issues that may arise when a new property owner inherits tenants. In other words, what types of liability issues may a purchaser / incoming landlord take on when acquiring real estate that is rented to residential tenants? 

The first question that should be asked is what type of contractual relationship exists between the outgoing landlord and the residential tenants. Are the tenants at will? Does a written lease agreement state a certain term of months of years for the tenancy? Any real estate lawyer representing you in the purchase of the property will need to know the type of tenancy and need to review copies of all lease agreements.  This is so that your counsel may determine whether the outgoing landlord and tenants are meeting their obligations; determine what rights and responsibilities each party have; as well as determine the material components of the leasing arrangement such as monthly rent, term, security deposits, maintenance responsibility and others.  

The second question that should be asked concerns the financial affairs of the outgoing lessor and tenant-lessee relationship. Your Greater Boston real estate lawyer will need to understand the rent payment history; present amount of rent; method of payment; amount of security deposit; location and type of holding account for the security deposit; and others. This is in addition to any expenses required for tenant unit maintenance and repair issues. 

Finally, your real estate attorney will need to understand whether there are any civil or insurance claims, or other State or local administrative or regulatory actions, demands, or issues associated with the tenants.  In most cases, these types of problems are rare, however, it is not uncommon for landlords to be subject to claims by tenants for negligence (such as slip and fall on the exterior premises); negligence or breach of the warranty of habitability (concerning the condition of the property); or a landlords' failure to comply with zoning or other fair housing laws.

The reason that a buyer of a tenant occupied property must review these issues is that residential landlords in Massachusetts are subject to a tremendous amount of regulations and liability. There are statutes and regulations concerning fair housing, sanitary codes, security deposits, rent deposits, and others. Additionally, Massachusetts General Laws ch. 93A, regulating unfair and deceptive trade practices, also applies to residential landlords, and violation of the regulations concerning residential properties constitute per se deceptive and unfair trade practices.  The penalties for a G.L. ch. 93A violation include up to triple damages and reimbursement of legal fees and costs associated with prosecution of the claim.  

If you are buying real estate in Massachusetts that contains tenants, you should consult with a real estate lawyer that specializes in residential and commercial transactions, and has deep knowledge of the due diligence process.  This expertise is crucial so that you purchase an investment without fear of liability and to ensure that you are making a prudent financial decision.  The Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC provides commercial and residential real estate services and is able to serve as your real estate lawyer in Lynnfield and the Greater Boston area.  

Trust Accountings & Deadlines to Contest Transactions

Our Trust and Estate Litigation Lawyers located in Lynnfield, Greater Boston, Massachusetts are responding to the question as to how long a trust beneficiary has to contest or object to a trust accounting. First, a beneficiary of a trust should have a copy of the applicable trust instrument. If you do not have a copy of the trust, this may embody a transparency issue that begins with the trustee.  If you cannot obtain or the trustee will not provide you a copy of the trust, you should contact an experienced trust litigation attorney immediately.  Once you have obtained a copy of the trust, you should carefully review it for provisions concerning accounts (or accounting). This clause will typically set a deadline of thirty or sixty days for objections to the trust accounting. If you have discovered one of these deadlines and have been served with an accounting by the trustee, then the clock has begin to run on your time to object to the accounting. If you have allowed the clock to run out on filing an objection to the accounting with the trustee, there are limited circumstances to excuse the lack of objection and it is advisable that you consult counsel to determine your options. 

If a proceeding concerning the trust has been filed in a Massachusetts Probate Court, then the Massachusetts Uniform Probate Code and Court controls the deadlines for objections and typically will set a return day.  Any mention of a return day on an accounting is the deadline to file an objection with the Court.  

The Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC represents beneficiaries and trustees of Massachusetts trusts and estates, and serves clients in the greater Boston area and Eastern Massachusetts. 

Trustees Have a Duty to Account (No Matter What)

Our Trust and Estate Litigation Lawyers located in Lynnfield, Greater Boston, Massachusetts are responding to a question concerning whether trustees of irrevocable trusts, revocable trusts, realty trusts, special needs trusts, and charitable trusts trusts can be relieved from a duty to account to beneficiaries. The Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC represents beneficiaries and trustees of Massachusetts trusts and estates, and serves clients in the greater Boston area and Eastern Massachusetts. 

Trust instruments sometimes contain clauses that state that the Trustee of the trust is under no duty to account to any beneficiaries.  Other (limited) accounting clauses provide the trustee with complete discretion to determine whether he/she should account to beneficiaries. These clauses were presumably placed into the agreement by the trust settlor (person who set up the trust) so as to maintain the secrecy of the financial affairs of the trust, and to eliminate the administrative burdens on the trustee if required to account.   

Most modern trust instruments will contain an independent paragraph that obligates the trustee of the trust to account to the beneficiaries once per year.  This accounting will provide the beneficiaries with information on the types and amounts of property held by the trust, income earned, and expenses incurred by the trust.  This will help the beneficiaries determine whether the trust has been managed in their best interests. Most estate planning lawyers will recommend or automatically include an accounting provision in trust, absent some of the interests described above.  

In the instance that the trust relieves the trustee from any duty to account, beneficiaries are not left completely in the dark as to the financial affairs of the trust.  Massachusetts Courts have established the basic principal that trustees of a trust have a duty to account for trust property and can be compelled to do so upon request to Court that has proper jurisdiction.  Massachusetts Courts have held that any trust clauses that relieve trustees of accounting duties are against public policy.  Therefore, trust beneficiaries seeking to determine whether a trustee has properly and adequately performed their duties may retain a trust and estate lawyer to request that a Court compel the trustee to account.  Then, the beneficiaries and trust litigation attorney can determine whether the beneficiaries may pursue any other remedies against the trustee for mismanagement of the trust.  

If you are a beneficiary of a trust and a trustee has ignored, stalled, delayed and/or refused to account to you, please contact the Law Office of Stefan Cencarik, PLLC at 781-463-6063. We represent aggrieved trust beneficiaries throughout Eastern Massachusetts.