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Canner Law

Residential Real Estate LawBuyer RepresentationSeller RepresentationCondominium LawLandlord/Tenant Law

Ordinance of Law Coverage for Master Insurance Policies

Ordinance of Law Coverage for Master Insurance Policies

Many lenders are now requiring that in older buildings, Condominium Association’s carry “Ordinance of Law” insurance coverage.  Failure to obtain the coverage can delay or imperil a closing.  Ordinance or Law coverage is extra coverage that pertains to the added cost of rebuilding, by enforcement of ordinances or laws regulating construction and repair of damaged buildings.  Older structures that are damaged may need upgraded electrical, heating ventilating, HVAC and plumbing based on city codes.  The lowest limit available is $25,000.  There is typically an additional premium to add to the existing coverage.

Since it is the Buyer’s lender that is requiring the change and the Association has never had to address the issue, there is work involved to educate the Trustees about the necessity of the added coverage.

One insurance agent I contacted highlighted the importance of ordinance of law coverage, stating “[p]lease understand this is extremely important coverage. I’ve recently seen two claims where owners were assessed several thousand dollars due to a building code issue resulting from a claim.”

updated: 1 month ago

Coordinating "Piggyback" Transactions

Coordinating Piggyback Transactions
June is the peak of the homebuying season. Planning a purchase to coincide with the sale of your home or condominium unit as often occurs this time of year requires coordination and communication.

To take some of the stress out of this process, it is helpful to understand the details. A “piggyback transaction” involves selling a property and using the proceeds from the sale to purchase a new property. Piggyback transactions, also known as “back to back” transactions, usually start with the closing for the sale taking place in the morning (typically before 10 AM), and the closing of the purchase occurring in the afternoon (typically after 12 PM). This allows time for the sale closing attorney to conduct the closing, go to record (meaning recording the deed and mortgage with the appropriate county Registry of Deeds), and then wire the net proceeds to the purchase closing attorney. Once the purchase closing attorney has conducted their closing and received all funds, then they can go to record as well, completing the transaction. When navigating a piggyback transaction, a client may encounter multiple professionals and other parties involved in the process. Additionally, sometimes the Buyer of the clients home has their own piggyback transaction as well. Therefore, there are a number of factors to consider:

The Attorney’s Job

Most clients who experience a smooth piggyback transaction attribute it to having good communication and coordination between the lender, attorney and real estate broker.

It is best to hire an experienced attorney to handle both transactions. A skilled attorney will line up the two mortgage contingency deadlines. This ensures that the buyer will obtain a firm loan commitment as soon as possible. The attorney will also ensure that there is enough time to fix any potential problems such as defective title. It is important for an attorney to issue spot potential problems in order to resolve them well in advance of the closing. An attorney who is prepared can always ask for extensions or other work-arounds for problems that may arise.

The Closing Day

As the closing day approaches, clients may begin to feel overwhelmed. Many clients are juggling the move with finalizing conditions with their lender, and receiving instructions from their attorney. In order to ensure a smooth closing, our firm provides the option for clients to sign a Power of Attorney for their sale so they do not have to attend that transaction. The clients then only have to attend their purchase transaction, which takes approximately one hour. Our office uses the e-filing system, Simplifile, so that clients do not close at the Registry of Deeds (where you have to pay to park, the air conditioning is unreliable, and in some counties, you have to stand in line and go through a metal detector and search in order to enter the building), but rather in our office or at the broker’s office.

updated: 4 months ago

New Back Bay Office Opening!

New Back Bay Office Opening
Canner Law & Associates, P.C. is pleased to announce the opening of our new Back Bay office space, located at 359-361 Newbury St., 5th Floor, Boston, MA. We will better able to service our Boston clientele and provide a convenient closing location.

If you are in the area, please stop by for a cup of coffee to check out the space and talk real estate!

updated: 7 months ago

Changes To The Regulatory Make-Up of the Housing Industry?

Changes To The Regulatory Make-Up of the Housing Industry
Among the many battles raging in Washington, D.C. this spring is a fight shaping up over the future of the housing industry. At the heart of the battle is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (“CFPB”). http://www.consumerfinance.gov/

Created by the Dodd-Frank Act (http://www.cftc.gov/LawRegulation/DoddFrankAct/index.htm), the Bureau has broad authority over the US economy. It has emerged as a lightening rod in regulatory reform as the director of the CFPB cannot be fired by the President.

In real estate, the future of the CFPB is significant because the agency has oversight of TRID and has unfettered authority to levy institutions with fines. Here is a discussion of each of these points:

TRID


On October 3, 2015, the CFPB implemented TRID http://www.consumerfinance.gov/policy-compliance/guidance/implementation-guidance/tila-respa-disclosure-rule/ which required lenders rather than title companies to issue Closing Disclosure settlement statements (“CD”) to borrowers. Additionally, lenders are required to issue the CD to borrowers three days in advance of the closing.

Consumers have benefited from TRID. The “three day rule” and clear formatting of the CD have given borrowers the time and information to understand the settlement statement at closing. Prior to TRID, HUD Settlement Statements were issued anytime up to the closing. Borrowers now are empowered to review their numbers well in advance of the closing. Moreover, borrowers are given a Closing Summary when they first apply for a loan and thus the closing costs in the CD have typically already been disclosed in advance.

TRID implementation has not been seamless though. Lenders and title companies have needed additional staffing to adhere to the compliance requirements. Further, software and protocols on implementation and compliance monitoring required large expenditures. Although the next generation of software has many sophisticated functionalities, not all platforms have been fully integrated.


Fines


In a recent case (PHH Corporation v. CFPB), the CFPB tacked $103 million onto a $6 million fine assessed against PHH. In separate matters, the CFPB also has levied multiple eight figure fines against lending institutions as well as assessing numerous six and seven figure fines against banks and real estate companies over business marketing agreements.

The CFPB Director, Richard Cordray, the former Attorney General of Ohio, has broad authority to assess fines in any amount. The Director is currently serving a term through 2018 and he cannot be removed by the President. Moreover, the PHH case is on hold until the full DC Court of Appeals rules on it.

With financial institutions facing ongoing compliance costs and uncertainly over fines, there has been a push in Washington to change the structure of the CFPB. A federal appeals court noted that the CFPB director is the “single most powerful official in the U.S. Government, other than the President.” The judges in PHH wrote that “[b]ecause the Director alone heads the agency without Presidential supervision, and in light of the CFPB’s broad authority over the U.S. economy, the Director enjoys significantly more unilateral power than any single member of any other independent agency.” In response, one of the main proposals floating around Congress is to change the make-up of the CFPB from a director to a five-member commission, reduce its budget and limit its rule making authority. https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-administration-looks-to-restructure-cfpb-1486116000

As the debate continues this spring, we will continue to monitor any changes.

updated: 9 months ago

New Settlement Agent Software Allows for More Efficient Delivery of Real Estate Services

New Settlement Agent Software Allows for More Efficient Delivery of Real Estate Services
We recently upgraded our real estate settlement agent software to Qualia.

Qualia is a San Francisco based company that features cloud-based, real time collaboration, which reduces data entry and redundancy, as well as improves efficiency.

Most important, the Qualia software integrates with our vendors, including title insurance companies, Simplifile, FedEx, and Ellie Mae (http://www.elliemae.com/about/news-reports/press-releases/ellie-mae-announces-integration-with-qualia).

Qualia’s features allow us to improve our delivery capabilities, which is key in a busy real estate market.

updated: 1 year ago

Canner Law & Associates, P.C. Named A 2016 Best Real Estate Law Firm in Boston

Canner Law amp Associates PC Named A 2016 Best Real Estate Law Firm in Boston
Expertise reviewed 268 real estate law firms in Boston, and picked the Top 19. The criteria for selection included: reputation, credibility, experience, availability, professionalism and engagement.
We are honored to be recognized. Thank you to my entire team, our terrific vendors, title insurance partners, and of course, the talented and dedicated realtors and mortgage originators we work with who helped Canner Law make the list of top real estate law firms in Boston!

updated: 1 year ago

CFPB Launches New TRID Website Page for Settlement Agents

CFPB Launches New TRID Website Page for Settlement Agents

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau just created a new resource TRID webpage for settlement agents.

http://www.consumerfinance.gov/policy-compliance/know-you-owe-mortgages/settlement-professionals-guide/?utm_source=GovDelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_term=08242016_a1&utm_campaign=RegImp

The page is intended to serve as a resource for settlement agents during the closing process. According to the website, Settlement Agents are “integral to real estate transactions. They gather essential data, coordinate transfer of ownership, and orchestrate many of the events leading to the consummation of a loan.”

The new page has two sections. The first is a review of settlement agent responsibilities, including specific tasks and complying with privacy safeguards. The second part focuses on how information will be gathered and shared, what creditors expect from settlement agents and how do disseminate Closing Disclosure statements.

updated: 1 year ago

Property Tax FAQs

Property Tax FAQs
Here is a summary of property tax FAQ’s:

I bought (or sold) the property several months ago, and the taxes are still in the name of the Seller.

This is a frequent occurrence. Most municipalities update their tax rolls annually, usually for the first quarter of the following tax year (August 1st). Thus, the name of the Seller likely will remain on the tax rolls until then. The Seller is not required to make the tax payment, since they are no longer responsible for the tax payments. Further, the Seller does not need to give the Buyer a copy of the tax bill.

I escrowed my taxes at closing and I received a copy of the tax bill. Does this mean my taxes are being paid through escrow, and do I need to provide a copy of the bill to the lender?

All municipalities mail a copy of the tax bill to the owner of record, regardless of whether the taxes are being escrowed.  If an owner is escrowing taxes, the lender's tax service provider is responsible for paying the taxes and will obtain a copy of the tax bill from the city or town.  As an owner of record that has taxes being paid through escrow, you can either file the copy of the tax bill, or recycle it.

When are property taxes due in Massachusetts?

Most municipalities require property taxes to be paid on a quarterly basis. The tax year begins July 1st. The taxes are due as follows:

1st Quarter (July 1st - September 30th) = due on Aug. 1st

2nd Quarter(October 1st – December 31st)= due on November 1st

3rd Quarter(January 1st – March 31st)= due on February 1st

4th Quarter (April 1st – June 30th) = due on May 1st

The first two quarter are “estimated” taxes. The third and fourth quarters are “actuals.”

Does the Purchase and Sale Agreement address taxes?

Yes, the P&S requires taxes to be adjusted as of the closing date.

I am selling my home, I do not escrow my taxes, and my closing is prior to the tax due date. Do I need to make my tax payment?

No, you do not. The taxes can be paid by the settlement attorney at closing. The final settlement statement will contain a tax adjustment for the daily per diem. Thus, if the quarterly tax payment is $1,200, and you close on July 30th, the settlement statement will reflect an approximate $400 adjustment from the Seller to the Buyer.

I am selling my home, I do not escrow my taxes, and my closing is after the tax due date. Will I be reimbursed for any taxes that I pay in advance?

Yes, you will be reimbursed. The settlement statement will reflect an adjustment of any amount paid in advance for the daily per diem. Thus, to return to our example, if the quarterly tax payment is $1,200 and the closing is on August 30st, the closing attorney will reimburse you approximately $800 to cover the July 1st to August 30th period that you have already paid.

I am selling my home, I escrow my taxes, and my closing is prior to the tax due date. How do I avoid a double tax payment?

If you are escrowing your taxes, most lenders schedule an automatic payment from the escrow account two weeks prior to the due date. Typically, the closing attorney will include the quarterly tax payment on the settlement statement, but hold the check in escrow until the lender’s escrow payment can be verified with the municipal tax collector on the due date in order to avoid a “double payment.”

I am purchasing a home and I want to ensure there are no further taxes owed.

Taxes “run with the land” so the owner of record is responsible for all back taxes owed on a property. Prior to closing, the closing attorney orders a municipal lien certificate “MLC” from the city or town, which shows the taxes owed. The MLC costs between $25 to $65, depending upon the municipality. The closing attorney is required to collect any back taxes owed by the Seller at closing and properly adjust the current taxes. The MLC is recorded with the Registry of Deeds at closing so that the Buyer has proof that there are no back property taxes. Further, if a Buyer obtains an owner’s title insurance policy, then they are held harmless and indemnified from any monies owed for back taxes.

Many municipalities provide the property taxes on-line (see, e.g., the City of Boston at https://www.invoicecloud.com/portal/(S(mozjkd22c41hse33zp2ec0ut))/customerlocator.aspx?iti=8&bg=7e2d0342-51f5-4f68-83af-3f05f5df1321&vsii=28)

When do I apply for a Residential Tax Exemption?

Some cities offer residential tax exemptions that are available if the property or unit is your primary residence. If there is an existing residential tax exemption in effect, it carries over to the new owner.

Most tax exemptions require that the new owner live in the property one full calendar year before the exemption goes into effect. Here are the rules from the City of Boston: http://www.cityofboston.gov/assessing/exemptions/resexempt.asp

Fiscal Year 2016 (July 1, 2015 - June 30th, 2016): To be eligible for the residential exemption, the property owner must have owned and occupied their property on January 1, 2015.

Fiscal Year 2017 (July 1, 2016 - June 30, 2017): To be eligible for the residential exemption, the owner must have owned and occupied their property on January 1, 2016.

The residential exemption is applied to the Fiscal Year Third Quarter tax bill that is issued in late December.

As examples, if Buyers closed on December 31, 2015, they can apply for a residential tax exemption with the City of Boston in the third quarter of 2017. However, if the Buyers closed on January 3, 2016, they would not be eligible to apply for a residential tax exemption until the third quarter of 2018.

(Note that the Town of Brookline has similar rules http://www.brooklinema.gov/161/Residential-Exemptions )


Are my property taxes required to be escrowed at closing?

Your property taxes are not required to be escrowed at closing. However, property taxes are “super liens” which have priority over the mortgage. Thus, for this reason, lenders prefer that your taxes be escrowed and they often will build a 1/8 of a point reduction into the interest rate if you escrow the taxes.


How does the lender calculate my tax escrows at closing?

The lender has a third party tax service provider manage the escrows. The lender will typically keep one or two months of taxes in reserve to serve as a cushion to ensure payment. The tax escrow is governed by federal law. If the amount in reserve exceeds the maximum allowable cushion, you will be reimbursed. When you refinance or sell and payoff the mortgage, the lender is required by federal law to reimburse the remaining tax escrows within thirty days of the payoff.


How are taxes impacted for new construction or condominium conversions?

As stated above, the municipality typically does not update the tax roll for two to four quarters. Thus, the property taxes are calculated based on the prior property or land usage (which is typically lower). Some municipalities “claw back” the balance of the taxes once the current rate is calculated. You should consult with your closing attorney about the issue further. A Seller’s attorney typically issues a “tax letter” for new constructions/ condominium conversion transactions to provide details in advance of the closing.

How do semi-annual tax payments work?

In a few municipalities (e.g., Cambridge), taxes are due twice a year. The payments are due in November and May. If escrowing, the lender will hold at least six months of taxes at closing.

In addition to property taxes, what else needs to be paid or adjusted at closing?

The water bill needs to be paid before at closing. Utility bills are in the name of the Seller and do not run with the land, so they do not appear on the settlement statement.

updated: 1 year ago

The Closing

The Closing
You are finally at the finish line and about to close on your new home or condominium unit. Naturally, you wonder "[w]hat are the final amount of funds to bring to closing and is there anything else I need to close?"

If you are financing the transaction, the lender is required to provide you with a "Closing Disclosure" ("CD") at least three days prior to closing. The CD will provide the final amount of funds needed to close. If you have a cash purchase, the closing attorney will provide the "Settlement Statement" which will similarly provide the final amount of funds to bring to the closing table.

You can bring the final funds by a certified bank check or send via a wire transfer.

If bringing a certified bank check, it should be made payable to yourself. Moreover, your lender may "source" the funds, meaning the bank check must be drawn from a bank account "sourced" (i.e., approved) by the lender. Thus, you should confirm the bank account with the lender before obtaining the bank check.

If wiring the proceeds, you should obtain the wiring instructions from the closing attorney in advance of the closing. If wiring from a brokerage account, you should send the wire two days in advance to allow for enough lead time. If wiring from an institutional bank account, you should give yourself one day lead time.

Additionally, you should bring two forms of identification to the closing, including a valid driver's license with a photo. A passport is a good back-up form of identification. A social security card also is acceptable. Credit cards are not acceptable forms of identification.

You should schedule the "final walk-through" with your realtor in advance of the closing. The actual closing takes approximately one hour.

At closing, our office provides pens, water, and/ or coffee. We also will give you the important documents to take with you, and email you a copy of the signed closing package as an encrypted PDF file for your records.

The listing agent or the seller’s attorney typically provides the keys at closing.

If we close at our office, we will electronically record the deed, mortgage and other recording documents with the Registry of Deeds for all recorded land closings. http://www.cannerlaw.com/blog/f/c/72
For registered land closing, we need to file the deed and mortgage at the Registry of Deeds. Once we are “on record”, we will immediately send email notification to all parties.

updated: 10 months ago

Mortgage Commitment FAQs

Mortgage Commitment FAQs
Understanding a Mortgage Commitment: FAQ's    
When financing a purchase transaction, the mortgage financing date is the single most important pre-closing event after the Purchase and Sale Agreement is signed.  
How Long is the Mortgage Financing Timeline?
The mortgage financing date typically occurs three to four weeks after the P&S is signed.  For a condominium purchase, four weeks is recommended.  
What is the Purpose of a Mortgage Commitment?
When financing a loan, a lender undertakes a lengthy review of the borrower prior to approving financing.  The borrower and the property must meet detailed Fannie Mae guidelines.  Thus, a mortgage financing date allows a Purchase and Sale Agreement to be signed before a borrower is approved.  
What if a Borrower is Not Approved?
Occasionally, a borrower's financing is not approved.  If this occurs, the lender issues a "denial" letter, and provided the request is timely, the borrower is refunded the full P&S deposit (typically 5% of the purchase price in Massachusetts).  A skilled loan officer should be able to make an early determination that a borrower is qualified for a loan.  Moreover, the process creates an implied incentive to ensure that a borrower is an ideal candidate to receive a loan:  the lender, other real estate professionals and seller certainly want to avoid a scenario where a borrower is denied a loan and the transaction is terminated 4-6 weeks into the pendency of a deal.  
What Does a Lender's Underwriter Review?
A lender's underwriter engages in a thorough review of the borrower's ability to repay a loan, including reviewing credit, employment, and assets.  (Note, if a borrower has commission or bonus based income, it may take longer to analyze).
The lender also reviews the appraisal to ensure the property appraises at or above the purchase price.  Finally, if the borrower is purchasing a condominium unit, the lender conducts a detailed condominium project review.  The review including ensuring the condominium questionnaire, the condominium documents and financials meet Fannie Mae guidelines.
What if the Lender Does Not Have A Commitment Ready on the Mortgage Financing Date?
On occasion, a commitment can be delayed due to issues beyond a lender's control such as problems with the appraisal process or obtaining and reviewing financials (e.g., bank statements and brokerage accounts).  In this scenario, the buyer's attorney will request an extension.  A seller is incentivized to grant an extension, because if the seller refuses to extend, they must refund the buyer's full deposit and then put the property back on the market.  Thus, the buyer typically can obtain one to two extension(s). However, many deals are on tight timelines, and if a seller is purchasing, they need the certainty of the commitment in a timely manner.  
How Should A Borrower Read a Mortgage Commitment?
Once the lender issues the mortgage commitment, it is important for the borrower to thoroughly review the commitment with their loan officer and/or attorney.  The commitment will contain a few outstanding conditions.  Most are boilerplate that apply to all loans and are easily satisfied in the days prior to closing.  They include verification of employment, a final credit check, a final inspection (if new construction), or final review of bank statements.  
Conditions that should be "red-flagged" as requiring an additional extension of the mortgage financing date in order to satisfy underwriting guidelines include when a loan is "subject to" an outstanding appraisal condition, a loss of employment, or condominium project approval.  
Should A Borrower Show the Commitment to the Listing Agent?
The lender sends the mortgage commitment directly to the borrower.  A borrower is not required to disclose their mortgage commitment to any party in the transaction.  Often, the commitment contains personal and private information, such as bank accounts, financials and employment.  A borrower simply can let the mortgage commitment date pass when proceeding forward.  Often, a buyer's agent will verbally notify a listing agent that the borrower has a mortgage commitment.

updated: 1 year ago

Electronic Recordings: A Benefit to the Consumer

Electronic Recordings A Benefit to the Consumer

Electronic recordings (e-recordings) of deeds, mortgages and other title instruments is fully operational in Massachusetts.

E-recording is more cost effective and faster than the traditional method of recording by sending a title examiner to the registry of deeds. It eliminates the need to hold closings at Cambridge, Boston or other traffic-impacted venues.

E-recording is legal and binding, and accepted by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and virtually every major lender. It is a major benefit to all parties involved with a real estate closing, and Canner Law is well-versed in how to use the system to ensure a faster and more convenient closing.

The process of e-recording is very straightforward, as our office:

  • Registers with the registry’s authorized electronic recording vendors (Simplifile)
  • Conducts closing
  • Scans original document to create an electronic image (pdf)
  • Logs on to the secure website and enter data about the document and upload the document image
  • Performs a quick online title run-down to ensure no title issues have arisen since the first title exam
  • Presses “send to the registry” button.

Then,

  • The registry verifies the quality of the image and the accuracy of your data
  • Once accepted by the registry, the document is official on record with recording data and document image immediately available on the registry website
  • The filer immediately gets an electronic receipt with all recording information along with an electronic copy of the recorded document.
  • Fees are paid by electronic funds transfer from the closing attorney, and we can avoid the usual $35 rundown fee. E-recording fees run about $4.50 per document.

In addition to e-recordings, Simplifile allows our office to collaborate with banks and lender to more easily expedite the delivery of required closing documents like the title policy and mortgage.

Please call or email our office to learn more.

updated: 1 year ago

Canner Law & Associates, P.C. Has Been Designated A Stewart Trusted Service Provider And A Secure Settlement Registered Agent

Canner Law amp Associates PC Has Been Designated A Stewart Trusted Service Provider And A Secure Settlement Registered Agent
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On October 3, 2015
, the Consumer Finance Protection Board (“CFPB”) required all lenders to replace existing GFE, TILA and REPSA disclosure forms with two new integrated closing disclosures. The new disclosures are a combination of the existing Good Faith Estimate (GFE), Truth-in-Lending (TIL) disclosure and the HUD-1 Settlement Statement. The requirement places detailed compliance requirements on the closing attorney/ Settlement agent.

We are proud to note that Canner Law & Associates, P.C. has been designated a “Stewart Trusted Provider ” and a " Secure Settlement " registered agent.

In order to qualify as a Stewart Trusted Provider, an agency or attorney agent must go through one of the most vigorous vetting processes in the industry, including:

Pass an intensive initial due-diligence screening

  • Third-party internal audit by Deloitte & Touche LLP
  • Background and Credit Checks
  • Extensive Review of Applicant’s Experience, Business Model and Policy Loss History
  • Licensing Verification

Conduct business according to stringent Independent Agency Standards

  1. Maintain honesty and integrity above all else
  2. Stay firmly customer focused
  3. Employ dedicated and well-trained associates
  4. Maintain a business model that supports long-term success
  5. Use Stewart as a preferred business partner
  6. Maintain an acceptable policy loss ratio
  7. Comply with all federal, state, and local rules and regulations
  8. Reconcile all escrow/trust accounts in a timely manner
  9. Ensure efficient and secure real estate settlements
  10. Deliver title policies to customers and report policies and remit payments to Stewart in a timely and compliant manner
  11. Comply with all terms of the Stewart Underwriting Agreement and adhere to all Stewart Underwriting Bulletins
  12. Address consumer complaints in a timely manner

*Stewart Trusted Provider Standards 7-12 align with American Land Title Association® (ALTA® ) Best Practices.

Undergo strict ongoing monitoring

  • Deloitte & Touche LLP internal audits based upon risk model scoring
  • Quarterly visits and detailed operational checklist by Stewart Agency Services representative (20 points covered)
  • Random background and credit checks
  • Policy inventory audits
  • Comprehensive ongoing operational review of agency network by Stewart senior management
  • Extensive training program for loss mitigation and loss avoidance
  • CFPB compliance training with attendance certification
  • Licensing verification

In addition, Canner Law & Associates, P.C. exceeds these requirements in our efforts to provide even higher quality service and protection by utilizing Stewart’s escrow account reconciliation services, securing an Escrow Security Bond. Lenders and consumers can depend on the attorney agents exhibiting the Stewart Trusted Provider seal to provide them with a quality experience throughout the real estate transaction process consistent with the coverage provided in Stewart’s Closing Protection Letters and Policies of Title Insurance as issued.
Canner Law & Associates has been vetted by Secure Settlements, which requires a closing attorney to provide confidential information including personal and business information, professional licenses, trust accounts, professional liability/E&O insurance, fidelity bond insurance, three lender references, and history of any civil lawsuits or criminal convictions. We are proud to note that after the vetting process, we have been designated a Secure Settlements Registered Agent.

updated: 1 year ago

Permits: A Little Due Diligence Goes a Long Way

Permits A Little Due Diligence Goes a Long Way

When buying a house or condominium in Massachusetts, a home inspector typically does not check the permits on a property. For a more thorough review, it is important for a buyer to verify with the city or town that there are no open permits.


City or town halls will allow the buyer (or buyer’s agent) to review all permits on file.An examination of the property’s “jacket” will contain the record of all permits and detail work performed.Typical items that are contained in the building’s jacket include building/ structural work, home improvement projects, as well as mechanical and electrical work.A review can also confirm that there are no outstanding issues.If there is any work required by an open permit, then the buyer is in a better position to negotiate a concession from the Seller prior to signing the P&S.

When representing a buyer, we add language into the Purchase and Sale Agreement Rider that includes a comprehensive “building permit” clause that there has been a final sign-off and closure by the city or town on all permits. We have the Seller represent that “with respect to any work SELLER has caused to be undertaken at the Premises during Seller’s term of ownership, such work was performed pursuant to building permits, if so required by the [town] with said permit(s) having received final sign-off and closure by the Building Inspector of the of [town] (“Inspector”) and that SELLER has no knowledge of any ‘open’ building permits.”


Additionally, a buyer should check with the fire department to ensure environmental compliance. We include a clause in the Rider which requires the Seller to represent that there are “no underground fuel tanks” and “no hazardous material or oil” on the Premises. If a Seller discloses that an underground oil tank was previously removed, there should be the required removal permits on record with the fire department. If the fire department does not have the requisite removal permits on file, then it is important to consult with an attorney to discuss the next steps.

updated: 3 years ago

A Lead Paint Primer for Realtors: FAQs

A Lead Paint Primer for Realtors FAQs
Under Massachusetts and federal law, real estate agents must tell prospective purchasers that a new owner of a home built before 1978 in which a child under six will live must have it either deleaded or brought under interim control within 90 days of taking title. It is important that realtors and sellers tell the prospective purchaser any information they know about lead in the home as the penalties for non-compliance are stiff. Sellers and real estate agents that do not meet the requirements can face a civil penalty of up to $1,000 under state law and a civil penalty of up to $10,000 and possible criminal sanctions under federal law for each violation. In addition, a real estate agent who does not meet requirements may be liable under the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, which provides up to triple damages. Below are realtor Frequently Asked Questions about Lead Paint laws.

What lead paint disclosures does a listing agent have to provide?
Whenever an owner of a home built before 1978 sells, the listing agent must provide the (1) the “Property Transfer Notification Certification”, and (2) all ten pages of the Department of Public Health’s “Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program ‘CLPPP’ Property Transfer Lead Paint Notification.”

Practice tip: It is a good idea to collate the two forms as one document in DotLoop or on the MLS when the listing agent is providing these to the Buyer.

Can the Buyer sign the Property Transfer Notification Certification form before the Seller?
No. It is invalid. The Property Transfer Notification Certification (“Property Transfer Form”) must be completed and signed by the Seller before the Buyer can sign. The Buyer’s signature acknowledges they are in receipt of the disclosure. Thus, the Buyer cannot be in receipt of the disclosure until the Seller first completes the form.

Practice tip: If the listing agent is slow to send the Property Transfer Form, then the buyer’s agent should document the requests by email. In addition, the buyer’s agent should email the listing agent’s broker to request the timely receipt of the Property Transfer Form.

What disclosures and acknowledgements have to be completed on the Property Transfer Form?
All disclosures and acknowledgements have to be accurately completed, including the Seller’s Disclosure, the Purchaser’s or Lessee Purchaser’s Acknowledgement and the Agent’s Acknowledgement. Agents should be aware that HUD and the EPA have audited broker’s files in the past and have at times found them deficient from a compliance standpoint. Thus, it is critical to accurately fill out the form.

Practice tip: Make sure that the Property Transfer Form includes the property address. The older form, “CLPPP form 94-3 dated 6/30/94” does not include a line for the address. Both agents working on the transaction should sign the form.

Does a listing agent have to provide a Property Transfer Form for a property built after 1978?
No. The lead paint law only applies to homes built before 1978. Therefore, testing for lead-based paint is not required.

Practice tip: If the listing agent provides a Property Transfer Form for a home built after 1978, neither the buyer nor the buyer’s agent has to sign the form.

Does a Seller have to accept an offer from a Buyer who is requesting lead paint testing?
A property owner or real estate agent cannot sidestep the lead paint law simply by refusing to sell or rent to families with young children. The purpose of the lead paint law it to protect the health of children and pregnant women. An owner cannot refuse to sell or refuse to renew the lease of a pregnant woman or a family with young children just because a property may contain lead hazards that they do not want to spend the money to remove. Any of these acts is a violation of the Lead Law, the Consumer Protection Act, and various Massachusetts anti-discrimination statutes that can have serious penalties for a property owner or real estate agent. A case in point: a Boston area landlord was recently hit with a $75,000 penalty by the Mass. Attorney General’s office for lead paint violations.

What is required to obtain a Certificate of Compliance?
Owners of homes built before 1978 where children under six live should have the property inspected by a licensed lead inspector. Typically, an inspector will look to remove peeling, chipping or flaking paint. A full list of surfaces to be deleaded is available in the CLPPP form.

Practice tip: To contact a licensed lead inspector, click this link.

Does a listing agent need to disclose a Letter of Interim Control?
Yes. A Letter of Interim Control is only valid for one year. Thus, if a home built before 1978 that has a Letter of Interim control but does not have a Certificate of Compliance, then the agent needs to Disclose the Interim Letter of Control and likely engage a professional to determine what work is needed to bring the property into compliance.

What is the contractors’ role in the lead removal process on home improvement projects?
Richard Vetstein, Esq. of the Mass. Real Estate Law Blog notes that new regulations went into effect in 2010 that cover paid renovators who work in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities, including renovation contractors, maintenance workers in multi-family homes, painters and other specialty trades. These regulations provide that most home improvement projects on homes built before 1978 require certified lead paint removal project contractors to follow strict lead paint removal precautions. Nothing in these new rules requires owners to evaluate existing properties for lead or to have existing lead removed.

Are there lead paint removal tax credits and loans available?
There are a number of lead paint removal no and low cost loans available. MassHousing, for example, has a “Get the Lead Out” Lead Paint Removal loan program for income eligible owners or tenants.

In addition, Massachusetts has a tax credit of up to $1,500 for each unit deleaded.

If an agent has a buyer purchasing a home built before 1978, should the agent request lead removal be done before the closing or after the closing?
If making these strategic decisions, we recommend that you consult a real estate attorney in order to be in full compliance with lead paint laws.

At closing, should Sellers sign the form in the closing package that says the Seller agrees to remove all known lead paint?
The form typically contained in most lender closing packages states that the Buyer agrees to indemnify and hold the lender harmless in the event of any non-compliance with lead paint laws.

updated: 3 years ago

Legal Services For Selling Your Home

Legal Services For Selling Your Home
Thinking of selling your home? We offer a full complement of legal and closing services for sellers in real estate transactions. We will first assist you in the early stages of the Offer to Purchase and Purchase and Sale Agreement. We will work to resolve and clear problems that may be found in the title examination, and prepare the deed from you to your buyer. As the closing approaches, we will work hand in hand with you to coordinate and represent you during the closing, and we will be there with you to answer questions you might have and resolve disputes that may arise at any time during the closing process. We will review all of the closing documents and fully explain their meaning and significance to you. We can execute all closing documents under a power of attorney so that you do not have to be present for the closing.

Standard Seller Representation

  • Review and negotiation of the Purchase and Sale Agreement, with a seller-focused Rider, including all home inspection and contingency issues
  • Preparation of the Deed
  • Coordination of payoff and discharge of old mortgages, liens and encumbrances on title
  • Negotiation and documentation of any extensions of deadlines
  • Review of HUD Settlement Statement in advance of closing.
  • Representation at closing.

We represent sellers on a fixed fee basis. Please contact us for more information.

updated: 3 years ago