Imagine this scenario:

Your small condo association has been cited by the City of Chicago for various code violations. The City has given the association eight months to resolve the violations or face fines. The total cost of the repairs? $53,000.

The association has not raised assessments for several years due to push back from unit owners. As a result, the association has had to dip into its savings to cover increasing operating expenses. The association's savings have dwindled below $5,000.

A Special Assessment of about $6,625 per owner is necessary to remedy the violations and avoid fines. 

Considering that nearly 1 in 4 Americans have no emergency savings, how likely is it that your association will be able to collect the needed funds from all owners in time?

If your association is not regularly increasing assessments and including a reasonable contribution toward reserves each year, when an emergency hits your owners may not be able to pony up. This could then lead to increased repair costs and/or the need for collection action against non-paying owners, which costs everyone even more.

It's a lot easier to ask owners to pay a little bit more each month to allocate to savings than to ask for a $6,625 lump sum payment. Keep this in mind when planning your 2019 budget. 

 

Chicago has already experienced some chilling temperatures, and we're likely to see single to below zero temps over the next few months. Extreme cold can lead to burst pipes and serious damage if owners do not take proper precautions. Here are a few ways to avoid the expense and stress of freezing pipes:

  • Proactively protect pipes. Insulate pipes and water lines that come into contact with cold weather. Turn off the water to outdoor spigots. 
  • Keep the heat at or above 65 degrees. Owners may try to save money by setting thermostats low, but keeping your building warm is critical to avoiding frozen pipes.
  • Inspect pipes for signs of freezing. Look for obvious signs such as bulging or frost on visible pipes. Check for reduced water flow or non-flushing toilets, which could indicate a freeze. If you find signs of frozen pipes, turn off the water supply and call a plumber. 
  • Monitor vacant units. Foreclosed or otherwise vacant units are most susceptible to flooding from frozen pipes. Ensure that vacant units have been weatherized. Heat should be at or above 65 degrees. Faucets can be set to a trickle.

Flooding from burst pipes causes damage averaging $15,000. Take steps to prevent freezing pipes and protect your building before temperatures plunge.

The City of Chicago has confirmed that owners do not have a right to the email addresses or phone numbers of their fellow owners. A city ordinance currently protects condo owners' privacy rights but still allows fellow owners the right to inspect certain owner information.

Section 19 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act was amended on January 1, 2018 to allow unit owners the right to inspect, examine or copy the email addresses and telephone numbers of other unit owners, in addition to names, addresses and weighted votes of all members entitled to vote. 

The City of Chicago responded with an Ordinance that prohibited condo owner names, physical addresses, email addresses, telephone numbers and weight votes of all members entitled to vote from being inspected, examined, or copied by other unit owners. The Ordinance was subsequently changed to allow names, addresses and weighted votes to be shared, but not email addresses or telephone numbers.

Board members should not share email addresses or telephone numbers of owners with other owners without express permission. Boards who rely heavily on email to communicate with owners should use the blind copy option so that email addresses are not shared.

 

Condo living is complicated and challenging at times. Underlying many of the common problems that condo owners experience, however, is a simple lack of knowledge about condo law and how condos function.

Condo board members are volunteers whose only qualification is that they are a deeded owner of a condo unit. There is no required level of education or experience to serve on the board. As a result, many associations struggle to find board members who can effectively and confidently fulfill their duties.  

As you prepare for 2019, consider including an expense line item in your budget to cover training and education for board members. It's unreasonable to expect your fellow owners to be experts in managing the association and maintaining the property simply because they've been elected. Board members need regular education and support in order to perform their duties and they deserve the support of the entire association in doing so. The end result benefits everyone.

A membership to ChicagoCondoResource.com is only $29/year. Members can access resources and post questions to our Ask the Expert blog for general information on a number of topics (without needing to turn to an attorney).

CAI and ACTHA are two organizations that regularly provide education and training to condo owners and board members. CAI offers board member training in person and online with its Dedicated Community Association Leader program. These are great options for helping your board perform well for your association. 

An investment in board education protects your investment in your property. Make some room in your 2019 budget to support the board members who volunteer their time and energy on your behalf.

The Illinois Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act, effective January 1, 2017, requires that all condominium associations and non-exempt common interest community associations adopt a written Complaint Policy by January 1, 2019.

The Complaint Policy is intended to address owner grievances against the board, not against fellow owners, for matters not currently involved in litigation. 

Boards can formally adopt the required policy using guidelines and templates provided by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. 

Adopting a Complaint Procedure is fairly simple and will guide your board in handling owner complaints consistently and in compliance with Illinois law.

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