What Is a Master Deed? Meaning, Roles, 3 Facts

In this post, I will talk about what is a master deed. A master deed is a legal document that allows the homeowner to make changes to their property after it has been purchased. The owner has the right to make changes after the sale without going through the seller first.

What Is a Master Deed?

When a developer intends to subdivide a parcel of property into condominium units, a master deed must be drafted and recorded with the relevant government agency in the land’s jurisdiction.

What Is a Master Deed?

This deed will identify the subdivision of the property into individual units and the location of common amenities in the proposed development. As with other deeds, any limits on the property’s usage are often included in the master deed.

A condominium complex is a building with several privately owned sub-units. The owners of the various apartments collectively own the common spaces and the key systems, such as the heating and cooling systems.

Although each unit owner will obtain a property deed for his or her apartment, a master deed must be filed for the whole complex before the first individual unit may be sold.

Roles Of a Master Deed

Similar to other deeds, a master deed will include both the legal description and the address of the property. In contrast to other deeds, this deed will specify how the property will be subdivided into distinct pieces. For instance, if the project contains 100 individual units, the master deed will reflect this.

In addition to specifying the number of individual units that will comprise the condominium complex, the master deed also specifies the location of the common spaces and legally transfers ownership of those areas to the individual unit owners.

Common spaces often consist of walkways, halls, and parking lots, in addition to grassy areas, laundry facilities, and swimming pool sections. Typically, these facilities are managed by the condominium organization, which consists of all the individual property owners.

Furthermore, the condominium association is responsible for important systems such as heating and cooling. In most circumstances, individual owners are required to pay a monthly charge for the upkeep and maintenance of shared facilities.

How to modify a Master Deed

1. Determine What Constitutes Your Master Deed.

Before beginning the modification procedure, ensure you have the registered master deed and any recorded amendments. Do not depend on the so-called “condominium presentation” that may have been issued during the marketing process by the declarant of the condominium (developer).

If you are uncertain as to whether you have a complete copy of the registered master deed, as modified, you should have counsel or a title examiner evaluate the registrar of deeds records.

What Is a Master Deed?

Only after completing such a study can you choose which provisions you wish to alter, as only then can you be certain that you are reviewing the active sections of your master deed.

2. Discuss What is to be Amended at One or More Board Meetings.

Upon obtaining the registered master deed and any recorded changes, identify the sections that the board feels require revision, including evaluating what is weak or absent about the present provision and how the board intends to make it better.

In the majority of instances, the focus will be on one or two, or maybe a few, problematic sections.

However, a thorough restatement of the master deed may be needed if the board determines that the present master deed is inadequate in several ways and fails to address issues that occur often at the condominium in a plain and reasonable manner.

In conclusion, you should examine and analyze your master deed to evaluate what works and what does not, as well as to discover outdated sections. This preliminary study can be of considerable use to the board’s legal counsel when they are brought into the process.

3. Appoint a Committee to Drill Down on the Details.

Especially if amendments to the master deed are being considered that will be broad in scope (such as a possible restatement of the entire instrument) or may prove controversial with certain unit owners (such as the imposition of a pet restriction).

What Is a Master Deed?

If the board consists of more than three to five members, efficiency may be improved by having a committee of two or three board members review the master deed and report their findings.

For this to work as intended, those volunteering for the committee must be willing to take the time to read the documents carefully and critically so that their recommendations to the full board will be helpful when the full board decides whether to amend the documents and, if so, the scope of the proposed amendments to the unit owners.

4. Determine the Requirements for Approving the Amendment.

Once the board has a sense of the extent of the proposed modifications, it should determine what percentage of unit owner (and maybe first mortgagee) assent would be necessary for the amendment’s adoption.

This will depend on the nature of the specific amendment to be made and will necessitate a review of I the general amendment provisions in the master deed, and (ii) as is frequently the case with residential condominiums, separate provisions for the protection of mortgagees intended to comply with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or FHA guidelines.

Such rules, if included, are often contained in the master deed, but may also exist in the condominium’s governing documents.

For approval of certain sorts of revisions to the master deed, these secondary mortgage market rules frequently demand the permission of a set proportion of so-called eligible mortgagees (typically, those who have given written notification to the unit owner organization).

What Is a Master Deed?

If these measures for the protection of mortgagees are not included in the master deed, the instrument containing the altered bylaws should also be considered.

When making such technical conclusions, condominium law knowledge is frequently required, and it is possible that legal counsel should be sought, if not already.

5. Contact Counsel for Analysis and Drafting of Amendment Documents.

Experienced condominium counsel will be helpful in answering the board’s questions regarding the scope of the proposed amendments (e.g., limited or comprehensive restatement of the master deed), the viability of the amendments as envisioned by the board, and the type and number of consents required for approval of those specific amendments.

If the board decides to proceed after consulting with counsel, the attorney is typically asked to draft the amendment and related documents (e.g., unit owner consent form, mortgagee consent form, if applicable).

As well as to prepare or review written communications from the board to unit owners explaining the amendments and the approval process. However, the board’s responsibility, which is frequently assisted by the organization’s property manager, is not complete.

6. Keep the Unit Owners Informed.

Particularly if the board will be proposing amendments to multiple provisions in the master deed, or amendments that may prove controversial (such as the addition or amendment of a restriction on the keeping of pets in units), keeping the unit owners informed as the process unfolds can be beneficial when it comes time to formally request their written consents or votes.

What Is a Master Deed?This can be accomplished by written letters from the board to all owners that describe the proposed revisions and why the board feels the owners should approve.

Also, including a comment period on proposed amendments that have been communicated to unit owners in the agenda for an upcoming annual or special meeting of unit owners can help shape the discussion and increase the likelihood that the board will be able to obtain the required consent for the amendment.

If deemed beneficial to the process, particularly if a number of changes are to be made under the amendment, counsel should be present at such a meeting to assist the board in its interactions with the owners, if deemed necessary.

7. Use a Cover Letter/Summary in Seeking Unit Owner Consent.

In rare instances, a master deed may need a vote of unit owners at a meeting to accept a change, although it is more common for a master deed to require unit owners’ written agreement or signature.

If appropriate, a cover letter should accompany the copy of the change and the consent or signature form that the unit owner will be required to sign and return when consent is requested.

In order to expedite the procedure, it is often good to include in the cover letter the date by which the form must be completed and returned, as well as the delivery or mailing address.

Especially if consents or signature pages must be recorded as part of the amendment instrument, the letter should underline that the owner must deliver or mail back the original that he or she signed in order for it to be accepted for registration at the registrar. A postage-paid return envelope might be useful in this regard.

8. Confirm that the Consents Have Been Executed Properly and Dated by the Unit Owners.

Once consents from unit owners begin to arrive, it should be determined if the present unit owners of each consenting unit have signed and dated the consent form or signature page.

Rather than relying on a list of unit owners that the organization may have on hand, it is standard practice to validate the identification of the current owners of the units by reviewing the register data prior to sending out consents.

If, upon review, it appears that there is an irregularity with the returned form (e.g., signed by someone other than the owner of record, omission of date of signing, return of a copy without an original signature such as by email or fax).

What Is a Master Deed?

It is best practice to follow up with the applicable unit owners to correct such issues so as to increase the number of valid consents received overall.

If mortgagee consents are required, counsel will often be asked to evaluate the title and provide the consent forms and an explanatory letter to each mortgagee entitled to notice under the condominium agreements.

9. Get to Record before Time Runs Out.

It is usual for the amendment clause in a master deed to provide that an alteration must be recorded with the registry of deeds no later than six months following the date of signature by the first unit owner.

When submitting consent or signature forms to the board or property manager, unit owners should be reminded to date them so that the board may certify compliance with such a requirement.

If consents of any holders of first mortgages on units are required, a time limit can be more problematic; however, Section 23 of Chapter 183A specifies a notice procedure that, if followed, will result in a mortgagee who does not respond or object within 60 days being deemed to have consented to the amendment.

10. A Word About Registered Land Condominiums.

In Massachusetts, there are two methods for recording deeds, with most properties forming “recorded land” and some, in whole or in part, comprising “registered land.”

Briefly, the registered land system enables a landowner to increase the marketability of the land’s title by getting a judicial ruling in the Property Court Department of the Trial Court proclaiming the certainty of the land’s title at the time of registration.

The preceding discussion should usually apply to registered land condos in Massachusetts in the same way as it applies to recorded land condominiums. However, the Land Court has issued instructions that might make the modification procedure more complicated and time-consuming in practice.

Conclusion

A master deed is a legal document used to convey ownership of real estate. It’s also called a deed because it was traditionally written on a large sheet of paper.

A master deed can be one of two things: an absolute deed or a special warranty deed.

An absolute deed is a transfer of ownership. A special warranty deed is a contract between a seller and buyer.

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Pat Moriarty
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