In Conservation Commission of Norton v. Pesa, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that a conservation commission can bring an enforcement action under the Wetlands Protection Act against any person who acquires property on which work has been done in violation of the Act, not just the first person. This means that action can be taken against any subsequent owner of the property as long as it is brought within three years of that individual obtaining title to the property.
Pierce Atwood real estate, land use, and environmental law partner Michelle O’Brien noted that the sellers of the property must often “track down” the plans that accompanied the original order, while also obtaining “as built” plans in order to get a certificate of compliance.
However, some buyers may not be aware of any existing violations on the property, and “such a buyer is not protected from enforcement for a three-year period after acquiring the property. Practically speaking there may not be many of these situations, but when there are, the effect of the decision seems unfair.”
The complete article appears in the September 13, 2021 issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and you can read Michelle’s blog post on this decision here.