The City of Chicago Shared Cost Sidewalk Program opens for applications at 12:00am on Tuesday (January 8). Applicants can apply by calling 311 or creating a request online.

The SCSP allows property owners to split the cost of needed sidewalk work with the city. Senior citizens and persons with disabilities are eligible to receive an additional discount. The application period closes quickly, so be sure to enter your request as early as possible on Tuesday morning.

Here at Haus Financial Services, LLC we keep a close eye on our clients' water bills. Your water bill can be one of your largest common expenses, and unfortunately the DOW isn't always accurate. One client received a bill for $11,704.22 that was clearly inaccurate. The DOW eventually issued a credit of $11,327.18 but needless to say, the bill caused quite a bit of stress in the meantime.

Broken meters and billing errors can result in outrageously large bills. For this reason, we also recommend that clients do not put their water bill on autopay. You should receive your bi-monthly bill via mail or email and review it for the following before making payment:

  1. Unreasonable charges. Bills that are inflated beyond what is usual for your building mean something isn't right. This could mean a broken water meter or a potential leak. The sooner you can address the issue, the sooner it can be resolved. Leaks can create huge water bills, and you must pay for all of the water you use even if it is unintentional.
  2. Estimated readings. An estimated reading means the DOW hasn't taken a reading of your actual water usage, and they may be overestimating. This could also be the result of a broken meter. Call the DOW and ask for a current Actual reading and an updated bill to ensure that you aren't overpaying and that your meter is working properly.

Water is not inexpensive and rates continue to rise annually. Keep an eye on bills and avoid overpaying for what you use.

 

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.

 

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