Conservation Measures: Assisting the Granite State with Going Green

As a condominium practitioner representing associations in both MA and NH, I often find it interesting to compare differences in the laws of the Commonwealth and the Granite State. While I believe that most would readily lean towards NH as the state with the edge on natural resources and beauty, in terms of their respective condominium statutes MA has a provision that takes an edge in the “green” department. Accordingly, the New Hampshire legislature could serve the conservation efforts of the state by lifting a provision of the Massachusetts Condominium Statute and adding it to the New Hampshire Condominium Act.

In particular, M.G.L. c. 183A, §6(a)(ii) provides that “the organization of unit owners may assess to each owner the direct cost of any energy conservation device installed in a unit, not already separately metered for water and utilities, including but not limited to the installation of separate water meters, low-flow toilets and showerheads, faucet aerators, windows and storm windows….” As is apparent from the plain language of the statute, this provision provides a powerful means of associations making significant conservation efforts. Separate water meters, low-flow toilets and showerheads and faucet aerators could significantly reduce water usage in units. Quality windows and storm windows could significantly improve a unit’s efficiency and thereby reduce the amount of heating resources necessary to maintain an appropriate temperature during the winter. Afforded the same authority with respect to such matters, the governing boards of New Hampshire’s associations could take steps to ensure the conservation of water and heating utilities.

Other common forms of conservation could also provide associations with significant reductions in utilities. For example, energy efficient bulbs hold the potential to save sizable amounts of electricity at associations. Many associations have common area lighting. For some, such lighting may exist in large quantities around exterior grounds. For others, such lighting may appear along the hallways of multiple floors of buildings containing “garden” style units. Due to the volume of bulbs used by many associations, the switch to energy efficient bulbs would likely have a large impact. Associations might even tangentially benefit from this change by saving on maintenance and replacement bulb charges since many energy efficient bulbs claim to require bulb replacement on a much less frequent basis than traditional bulbs.

While conservation efforts are laudable, association boards contemplating such measures should exercise caution. The introduction of new components to the condominium (e.g. solar panels, rainwater runoff collection system, etc.) could require a formal approval process including a vote of the community. It is recommended that boards share ideas in this regard with legal counsel in a proactive manner. This will allow the association’s attorney the opportunity to advise the board on how to properly implement new components.

Sidebar- Legislative Update

A quick New Hampshire legislative update- HB 1115 passed and was signed by the Governor. Effective January 1, 2015, this provision clarifies that a unit owner’s Homestead Declaration does not protect against an association’s lien for unpaid condominium assessments.
By Gary M. Daddario

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