Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff
Where a plaintiff resident of a manufactured housing community has brought suit alleging that the defendants unlawfully charged the plaintiff and other residents of the community for water, the complaint must be dismissed because neither the Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Act nor the parties' occupancy agreement imposes on the defendants an obligation to provide water to residents and to pay for it.
"[Plaintiff Anthony] Alenci's Complaint alleges six claims: Count I asserts that Massachusetts law requires [defendant] Hometown [American Management, LLC] to supply and to pay for water for all Oak Point residents; Count II asserts that Hometown's water metering practices violate the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Statute ('Chapter 93A'); Count III asserts that Hometown's water metering practices breach the written agreement governing the relationship between Hometown and all Oak Point residents; Count IV asserts that a Massachusetts statute governing landlords' responsibility to provide water to tenants prohibits Hometown's metering and fee practices; Count V asserts that Hometown is unjustly enriched by its failure to pay for residents' water; and Count VI asserts Alenci is entitled to injunctive relief.
"Alenci suggests two sources for Hometown's obligation to pay for water supplied to the home sites: the Massachusetts Sanitary Code, and the regulations promulgated under the Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Act ('MHA'). According to Alenci, both the Sanitary Code and the MHA regulations require Hometown to both provide water to its residents and pay for it.
"However, the MHA regulations specify that the above-described universal obligation to provide and to pay for water for residents applies 'except that use charges may be imposed and determined by metering at a manufactured home site by a utility or utilities.' [940 Mass. Code Regs.] at 10.05(4)(e) (emphasis added). With this language, the MHA regulations provide an exception to the general rule obligating an owner to supply water.
"Here, the exception to Hometown's obligation applies. The allegations of the Complaint make plain that the Town of Middleborough supplies water directly to Alenci (and to each resident) and bills Alenci (and each resident) directly. ... Moreover, the Complaint alleges that water usage is determined and billed based on meters installed for each home site at Oak Point, and that this 'arrangement has been in place for...