Bulletin: MA2020002

Date:
April 10, 2020
To:
All Massachusetts Issuing Offices
RE:
UNDERWRITING - Municipal Options to Purchase under Chapters 61, 61A and 61B

Dear Associates:

On April 3, 2020, Governor Baker signed into law “An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19.” The Act is designated as Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 and is available for review here: https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2020/Chapter53.

The law includes a provision extending the period of time for municipalities to respond to a notice of intent to sell, or convert to, residential, industrial or commercial use any property which is taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B. Specifically, Section 9 of the Act states:

SECTION 9. Notwithstanding section 8 of chapter 61 of the General Laws, section 14 of chapter 61A of the General Laws, section 9 of chapter 61B of the General Laws or any other general or special law, charter provision, ordinance or by-law to the contrary, during and for a period of 90 days after the termination of the governor’s March 10, 2020, declaration of a state of emergency, all time periods within which any municipality is required to act, respond, effectuate or exercise an option to purchase shall be suspended.

M.G.L. c. 61, s. 8; c. 61A, s. 14; and c. 61B, s. 9 each contain a prohibition on the sale or conversion of property which is taxed under the applicable chapter if the property will no longer be used for forestry (Chapter 61), agricultural or horticultural use (Chapter 61A) or recreational use (Chapter 61B) unless the municipality has first received notice of the sale and is given an opportunity to purchase the property. This prohibition and option applies while the property is taxed under one of the chapters and for a period of one (1) year after the property is no longer so taxed.

The municipality is entitled to notice by certified mail of the intent to sell or convert for a different use, and they have a period of 120 days from the mailing of the notice to respond. Under the Act, however, that time period has been suspended.

As a result, you may not rely on the expiration of the 120-day period for a municipality to respond to a notice of intent to sell or convert if such expiration would occur after March 10, 2020. Therefore, you may not insure properties which are currently taxed under Chapters 61, 61A or 61B (or have been taxed under one of those Chapters within the preceding one-year period) if the notice of intent to sell or convert was sent to the municipality within the 120-day period prior to March 10, 2020 (i.e., on or after November 10, 2019), unless a notice of non-exercise of the option by the municipality has been recorded at the Registry of Deeds. This bulletin expires 90 days after the termination of the governor’s March 10, 2020, declaration of a state of emergency.

If you have any questions relating to this or other bulletins, please contact your Massachusetts Underwriting team at massuwing@stewart.com or 1-800-628-2988.

For on-line viewing of this and other bulletins, please log onto www.vuwriter.com.

THIS BULLETIN IS FURNISHED TO INFORM YOU OF CURRENT DEVELOPMENTS. AS A REMINDER, YOU ARE CHARGED WITH KNOWLEDGE OF THE CONTENT ON VIRTUAL UNDERWRITER  AS IT EXISTS FROM TIME TO TIME AS IT APPLIES TO YOU, AS WELL AS ANY OTHER INSTRUCTIONS. OUR UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS DO NOT AUTHORIZE OUR ISSUING AGENTS TO ENGAGE IN SETTLEMENTS OR CLOSINGS ON BEHALF OF STEWART TITLE GUARANTY COMPANY. THIS BULLETIN IS NOT INTENDED TO DIRECT YOUR ESCROW OR SETTLEMENT PRACTICES OR TO CHANGE PROVISIONS OF APPLICABLE UNDERWRITING AGREEMENTS. CONFIDENTIAL, PROPRIETARY, OR NONPUBLIC PERSONAL INFORMATION SHOULD NEVER BE SHARED OR DISSEMINATED EXCEPT AS ALLOWED BY LAW. IF APPLICABLE STATE LAW OR REGULATION IMPOSES ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS, YOU SHOULD CONTINUE TO COMPLY WITH THOSE REQUIREMENTS.

References

Bulletins Replaced:
None
Related Bulletins:
None
Underwriting Manual:
None
Exceptions Manual:
None
Forms:
None