If your association pays for common heating gas or electric, your bills will show a large increase during the winter months.  Enroll in the budget payment plan through Peoples Gas or ComEd and your monthly utility expense will be the same regardless of the month.

This option helps to even out cash flow throughout the year and makes financial data more consistent.  Peoples Gas usually offers the budget payment option on its invoices.  Just pay the budget amount as indicated instead of the total due, and they will automatically enroll you in the budget plan.

Monthly budget payments may be adjusted during the year to account for changes in usage or utility costs.

Many newer condominium association Declarations contain what is known as a mandatory arbitration clause.  The clause requires that any owner issues or claims against the Board be addressed through arbitration.  The results of the arbitration can be entered in court if the matter progresses to a legal battle. 

The purpose of the clause is to reduce the number of association matters that end up in the legal system and to reduce legal fees for associations and owners.  If an owner brings a case to court and it is determined that they did not comply with the arbitration requirement, the suit would most likely be dismissed.  Also, if an owner files suit after the matter has been addressed through arbitration (because they are unhappy with the result), the association can present the arbitration results as evidence and again, seek a dismissal.

Adding this clause to your Declaration, if it does not exist, requires an amendment.  For more information about amendments, please contact a Condo Law Attorney.

A client forwarded this great article on common mistakes made by association Boards.  I'm sharing it here.

The article was originally published in the November/December issue of Common Ground, CAI's magazine focusing on issues affecting condominium, co-op, and homeowner's associations.  Become a member of CAI and receive the magazine in its entirety, as well as access to additional resources for your association.  See the CAI website for details.

Cook County recently mailed the 2009-second installment tax bills.  These bills will be due and payable on December 13, 2010.

You may recall the 2009 1st installment bill was payable on March 1, 2010 and was an estimated bill (55% of last year's bill).  The balance due for 2009 is reflected on the 2nd installment bill recently mailed.
 
If the 2009 bill is higher than 2008, it may be the result of:

  • a record 13.4% increase in the Cook County equalizer;
  • an increase in the local tax rate;
  • a decrease in the homeowner exemption because the 7% assessment cap is being phased down by State statue and/or;
  • an increase in the assessment (Chicago was re-assessed for the 2009 tax year).

The computation of the 2009 taxes will appear on the right-hand side of the second installment tax bill.  Unit Owners should be sure to verify they have obtained all exemptions they are entitled to.  If they have not received all exemptions they are entitled to, they will need to contact the Cook County Assessor's Office to correct this.

Courtesy of Elliott & Associates, P.C.
Real Estate Tax Appeals

I've been preparing budgets for a number of new clients lately, and I'm often finding that assessments have been charged in the past do not correspond accurately to the ownership percentages recorded in the association's Declaration.

When I purchased my first condo and prepared my first budget as Treasurer for the building, I noticed that some owners' assessments increased while others decreased.  The only reason for this to happen is if the original assessments have not been calculated based on ownership percentage, as they should be.  If the total budget increases 10%, each owner's assessments should increase 10%.  It's simply math.

Every time a budget is prepared, the ownership percentages should be checked against the Declaration to ensure that owners are being charged correctly, particularly if you are a new Treasurer.   This will ensure that every owner pays in their proper share. 

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