Friday, August 29, 2008

Voice Your Views at Public Hearing Sept. 3

Do you have ideas for state laws that would improve condo living? If so, the Illinois Condominium Advisory Council wants to hear them. The purpose of the council, appointed by the state legislature, is to identify the biggest challenges to condo life in Illinois and make recommendations for legislative change.

The council's second public hearing will be held from 10 a.m. until noon, Wednesday, Sep. 3, at St. Andrews Greek Orthodox Church, at the corner of Hollywood and Sheridan, in Chicago. Hearings will also be held, from 10 a.m. until noon, on Thursday, Sep. 18, at City Hall in Orland Park and on Tuesday, Sep. 23, at the Heather Ridge Clubhouse in Gurnee.

If you cannot attend one of the hearings, you are invited to e-mail your opinions and suggestions to the council's chairman, Jordan Shifrin, an attorney at Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in Buffalo Grove. The council will deliberate during October after all the input is digested and make its report to the legislature the first week of November. "We will not draft legislation, only address global problems," said Shifrin. "After we have feedback, we will vote on recommendations."

In addition to its chairman, the council consists of two other laypeople (Shelli Lulkin, George Panagakis) and four legislators (Rep. Harry Osterman, Rep. Angelo Saviano, Sen. Pam Althoff and Sen. Mattie Hunter).

Here, taken from a column Shifrin wrote for the Daily Herald, are some of the issues emerging:

RESERVES: Board members are feeling enormous pressure to maintain older properties and are scrambling to find bank loans or imposing special assessments to fund this work. This creates financial hardship for many people. Had previous boards initiated a reserve study and properly funded the reserve accounts, these properties would be in much better shape. What to do?

For years, there has been a debate over whether reserve funding should be mandatory and that some formula or percentage should be imposed. This is always at odds with the philosophy of those boards that want to hire only the lowest bidder, and keep assessments low.

STATUTORY MANDATES: There are many requirements in the statutes and the various declarations and by-laws, but there are no enforcement mechanisms. The Condominium Act allows individuals or associations to collect attorneys fees (e.g., failure to disclose records, etc.) but this necessitates the hiring of an attorney and the filing of a lawsuit. Should the state's Attorney General's office enforce the act when it is violated? Should local government be involved in enforcing state statutes, if they are adopted at the local level. Should developers be subject to some type of state enforcement for shoddy construction other than only the current system of private enforcement?

BOARD AUTHORITY: Do boards have too much authority or not enough? What can be done when the board is a bunch of dictators ignoring owners' needs? What can be done about a demagogue owner who disrupts every meeting and harasses the directors? Is there enough of a balance?

PROPERTY-MANAGER REGULATION: There is currently no licensing requirement or regulatory authority overseeing property managers in Illinois. The debate on this topic has been ongoing for over 20 years. With an epidemic in the last few years of financial impropriety, is it time to resolve this dispute? Even if managers are licensed or regulated, what about self-managed associations?

SMALL ASSOCIATIONS: Should small associations be subject to the same legal requirements as the larger properties (e.g., annual meetings, three directors, 30 days advance notice of proposed budgets, etc.)? Wisconsin, for example, has a special section in its statutes dealing with small associations.

COLLECTION OF DELINQUENCIES: Should an association have to wait 60-180 days to obtain possession when it files for an eviction, when a landlord usually only waits 5-14 days?

NON-RESIDENT OWNERS: There was recently a bill (HB 5109) to restrict associations from amending their covenants to eliminate rentals. Although it remained in committee as the legislature adjourned for the summer, it will be advanced again in the near future. Is this a right of the owners, or is it discriminatory? The council will probably take a position on this issue.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DEFECTIVE CONSTRUCTION: Should local government have any accountability of building defects when municipal employees overlook apparent problems and issue permits, notwithstanding? Should there be mandatory escrows to withhold a portion of sales proceeds to pay for repairs when the developer refuses?

HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATIONS: Condominiums have a statute, but there are no guidelines for townhome or homeowners associations. Should there be an equivalent statute or should the condominium act become the common interest community act to cover all types of associations?

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