Your association's financial health is dependent on setting an appropriate budget, reducing delinquencies and keeping expenses under control. Professional financial processing services that address these needs can actually save you money in the long run by helping you avoid costly legal action.  However, if you are a self-managing building you may not be aware of saving opportunities.

Here are a few ways that your condominium association may be able to trim your budget and keep assessments from spiraling out of control in 2018 and beyond:

  • Have your insurance reviewed by a broker.

Many condo associations simply renew their existing policy year after year without taking the time to explore other options. Just like your car insurance, you may be able to save on premiums with a different carrier. You may even find a policy with better coverage, to boot. An insurance broker can help you to find savings across a number of different carriers.

  • Explore waste removal options.

At Haus Financial Services, we see a wide range of pricing across our small condo clients. Even buildings of similar size are paying widely varying bills for their waste removal and recycling services. Price comes down to the carrier you use, the amount of service you require, and your ability to negotiate the best deal. You'll need to review your existing contract terms if you want to make a change, but this is a great expense to review for potentially huge savings.

  • Move reserves to a no-fee account.

Many brick and mortar banks are charging monthly fees on accounts that do not maintain a minimum balance. And those minimum balance requirements seem to be climbing continually higher while interest paid is virtually non-existent. An online account such as the Capital One Spark Business account, which has no minimum balance requirement and no fees, plus the ability to transfer funds to and from external accounts, is a good option for small condo associations.

  • Avoid unnecessary city fines for overfilled dumpsters.

The city of Chicago is cracking down on overflowing dumpsters, which promote rodents and other unsanitary conditions. Make sure that your waste removal service is adequate for the amount of waste being produced by your building. If you are concerned that neighbors or anyone other than owners and tenants are using your dumpsters, speak to your waste removal company about securing them.

 

On January 1, 2017, the Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act was amended. Included in the original legislation enacting the Ombudsperson Act was a requirement for associations to adopt a unit owner complaint resolution policy. As of 2017, that must now be done no later than January 1, 2019.

Each association is required to make the written policy available to all unit owners. Associations should be proactively addressing this requirement in 2018.

Beginning in July 2020, qualified unit owners will be able to make written request to the Ombudsperson for help with resolving disputes between unit owners and associations. This provision will be available only if the legislature provides funds for the program. As a result, whether or not the Ombudsperson will actually materialize remains to be seen.

The 2017 amendment also establishes that the act will be repealed on July 1, 2022. 

For details on what must be included in the written complaint resolution policy and the qualifications to make a complaint to the Ombudsperson Office, click here.

Holiday decorations are an issue that Boards must deal with every year. Although decorations can be festive and exciting, Boards must sometimes prohibit certain decorations.

Boards must regulate decorations because they have an obligation to limit liability and protect the health and safety of all occupants. Additionally, the Board is responsible for maintaining a cohesive aesthetic in the interior and exterior of the property.  

In general, the Board is allowed to adopt rules limiting certain items from being hung on common elements for reasons of safety and aesthetic cohesiveness.  Problems can occur when rules are not established and there is a disagreement over decorations. Unit owners have the protected right to display certain religious articles, so the Board may need to consult legal counsel when creating rules or when taking action in the absence of any established rules.  

To learn more, click here.

A large number of condo units are occupied by renters. And a large portion of those rentals are owned by former owner-occupants who chose to rent rather than sell, often because they owed more on a mortgage than the property was worth when they needed to move out. 

Renting can come with many challenges. If you are an owner-occupant turned landlord you are likely going to deal with problematic tenants at some point. Below are some tips for preventing or addressing a problem tenant.

1. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your landlord rights and responsibilities, your tenants’ rights, and other laws that may pertain to your situation. Download this Landlord-Tenants Rights Self Help Packet for information specific to Illinois.

2. Make sure all rules, regulations and policies of your rental property are clearly stated in the lease and make sure your tenant is aware of all of them. If your condo association has its own Rules & Regulations in place, provide a copy to your tenant and ensure that you respond to and address any violation notices sent by your board. A condo association can fine you as the owner for tenant violations of the association's Rules and Regulations, and even evict your tenant.

3. Document the policies and procedures you use when handling problematic tenants. Include your response time, form of communication, warnings, notices and when to escalate the situation. Document all interactions with tenants whether they are good or bad. This includes phone calls, emails, texts, late rent payments, notices, warnings, complaints, maintenance requests, and all interactions within units.

4. Provide a copy of your lease to your condo board. This is required by condo law and failure to do so promptly could result in fines.

5. Don’t let your emotions take over when interacting with tenants. Be firm and unwavering in your policies.

6. Treat tenants with respect and kindness. This includes respecting confidentiality.

7. If you feel that a situation is beyond your control or training, call the police.

Learn more about common problematic tenant situations, and eviction law in Illinois.

These are steps that should be taken when a lawsuit is filed, or when an association, through its board members or management, receives a threat or notice of a claim that may result in litigation:

  1. First, Ensure Proper Insurance Coverage. Your condo association should have insurance coverage in place that will cover legal fees to defend a lawsuit. Consult with an insurance agent who specializes in coverage for community associations when determining which policies are appropriate.
  2. Send Notification of Claim: Insurance Carrier(s) and Attorney. Many associations often contact their insurance providers simply to put the provider on notice that they’ve received a communication which contains a threat of a claim, prior to the filing of actual litigation. Management and/or board of directors should also contact the association’s legal counsel.
  3. Determine if Insurance Coverage Exists. Many claims that are filed against associations and board members may be covered by one or more of the association’s insurance policies. The board should familiarize itself with each policy carried by the association.
  4. Confirm Legal Representation. When a lawsuit is filed, an association’s insurance carrier may assign legal counsel from a panel of “pre-approved” attorneys often used by the insurance company or it may have the right to choose its own attorney. Review this item with association's counsel to determine how legal representation will be handled for the claim.
  5. Vote to Defend Against Litigation. Any time an action is filed against individual board members, the board, the property manager or management company, or the association, the board must take the formal action of voting in an open meeting to defend the litigation.

Click here to read more about handling owner lawsuits in a condominium association.

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