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  • July 14, 2020 2:00 AM | Brian Palm

    By Adam Czerwinski
    Sidebar Insurance Solutions
    (708) 942-5150

    Has COVID-19 resulted in additional coverage recommendations?

    Short Answer: Maybe.

    Long Answer: We do not know yet. COVID is affecting our lives in ways we could not have anticipated. Insurance companies hate change and will spend the next several years making adjustments to their policies based upon COVID’s impact.

    Longer Answer: “Additional coverage” depends on an association’s current policies. Minimally, homeowners associations should review and potentially reinforce the following policies:

    1. Liability Coverage/Umbrella Policy - An association’s liability policy protects against third-party

    claims for injuries that occur on the property (think icy steps). Potentially, there may be some claims against associations for COVID infections - and the association’s liability policy may be engaged. Having a higher liability limits ($) or umbrella coverage may provide better protection for the association should a claim arise.

    2. Worker’s Compensation -If your association has a handyman or a contractor that regularly performs work - you may want to consider engaging a worker's compensation policy. Earlier during the lockdown, the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission created a rule that COVID-infected essential workers were presumed to be infected at work. This presumption was promptly abandoned - but could show a predisposition against employers/principals in future claims - and create more claims.

    3. Directors & Officers Insurance - During the COVID pandemic, associations are making difficult and unpopular decisions. You may have to limit use of shared spaces, pools, gyms or cancel events. This could create an opportunity for unit owners to allege the board had disrupted their enjoyment of the property or collected funds for services that were not delivered. This claim could be covered under the Directors and Officers policy.

    Additionally, Boards should review resources found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s website:

    The site offers guidance, signage and actionable plans for all sorts of businesses that may relate to the operation of your association.

    Please note that information provided in this column is educational and is not legal advice or given for purposes of modifying your association’s policy. Please contact your attorney or insurance professional directly to discuss your insurance needs, coverages, or particular claims situation.

  • July 14, 2020 12:30 AM | Brian Palm

    COVID-19 Pandemic Causes Surge in Exposures reported to Nation’s Oldest Poison Center

    The Illinois Poison Center (IPC) urges people to use caution with cleaning products, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to IPC data, exposures to cleaning products are up 30%, compared to last year, related to novel coronavirus transmission precautions and concerns.

    Examples of exposures the IPC is managing include:

    • People using non-traditional chemicals to wash their hands (e.g. bleach, hydrogenperoxide, wipes, etc.) instead of regular hand soap resulting in rash/irritation andcracked skin.
    • People using chemicals (e.g. bleach, wipes, cleaning powders) to wash their groceries,including produce and are then concerned about toxicity upon ingestion;
    • Mixing cleaning chemicals together and inadvertently producing toxic gas; and
    • Pediatric exposures to cleaning products left open/unattended.

    “It is critical that consumers read all cleaning product labels carefully before use and heed any warnings,” says IPC Assistant Vice President Carol DesLauriers, Pharm.D. “While good hand hygiene and household disinfecting efforts are important in the fight against COVID-19, people must remember to use cleaning products for their intended use. If there is any doubt about the safe use of cleaning products, call the IPC for guidance.”

    While many people are using the stay-at-home order to tackle spring cleaning, in conjunction with disinfecting to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the IPC offers the following tips for poison-proofing your home:

    • Whenever using cleaning products, always read the product label first and use the product according to the label directions;
    • Keep all cleaning products in their original containers with original labels;
    • Store cleaning products out of sight, in locked cabinets;
    • Keep all household cleaning products and other potentially harmful products separated from food products;
    • Never leave a cleaning product open and unattended;
    • When using cleaning products, work in well-ventilated areas; and
    • Dispose of cleaning products according to the instructions on the label or at your community chemical waste drop-off site.

    The good news is that approximately 90% of poison exposures can be treated safely and effectively at home, by calling the IPC at 800-222-1222 and providing the name of the poisonous substance and the approximate amount involved in the exposure.

    In case of a poisoning exposure, follow these first-aid steps, then call the IPC:

    • Swallowed: Give a few sips of water to drink. If the patient is unconscious, call 911 ortake them to the nearest hospital emergency department. Never try to chemicallyneutralize any poison.
    • Skin: Remove contaminated clothing and wash skin gently with soap and cool water.
    • Eyes: Rinse eyes with lukewarm water for 15 minutes.
    • Fumes: Remove patient to fresh air, taking care not to become exposed yourself. If thepatient is not breathing, call 911 and start artificial respiration and continue untilmedical help arrives.

    IPC experts are available to provide information and treatment advice 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, including holidays. If you suspect that you or someone you know has been exposed to a potentially harmful substance, please call the IPC at 800-222-1222. The call is free and confidential. For more information, visit the IPC’s website:


    The Illinois Poison Center is a nonprofit health service that provides the people of Illinois with comprehensive and trusted information and treatment advice on potentially harmful substances via a free, confidential 24-hour helpline staffed by specially trained physicians, nurses and pharmacists.

  • March 25, 2020 10:11 AM | Brian Palm

      Hello everyone,

             We sincerely hope that you and your families are healthy and coping well with our "new normal" as a result of the COVID 19 Pandemic.  We at ACTHA are committed to continuing to provide    information and support to our members during this unusual time in our lives.  Of course, Association business is most likely not your top priority right now, but we hope that you will turn to us with any concerns you are having.  If we cannot provide answers, we will refer you to one of our commercial members who are devoted to serving community associations.  

               In this issue, you will find a link to the webinar we presented last Friday, "Implications of COVID 19 For Associations".  It was our first attempt using a new program and, due to limited staffing availability, there were a few glitches.  Please accept our apologies!  We assure you that we will continue to fine-tune our skills. We plan to continue providing this avenue for interaction with our membership for the foreseeable future.  We have decided to make this webinar available to all in our database, current members as well as lapsed members.  The link is provided in this newsletter. This was a difficult decision for our Board of Directors, but we are committed to our core mission to educate and support. As you may know with the recent turnover of day to day operations of our organization to volunteer Board members, we have had difficulty with our membership software.  Confusing and sometimes conflicting messages sent out last fall negatively impacted us in maintaining our membership rolls this year.  We are a not-for-profit organization.  Please continue to support us so that we may support you.  If you allowed your membership to lapse, go online and renew.  If your contact list, and most importantly, your primary contact (bundle administrator) has changed or includes a manager, management company or any other commercial contact, please correct it by going to, emailing:, or calling 312- 987-1906.

                Please note, if you click on the link to our recent webinar recording, you will see a series of black screens with the names of the moderator, Elizabeth Gearon, and Bill Chatt and Bob Prince, the presenters.  Please go to the bottom of the screen and move the blue dot to 3:32 or later for the video and audio to begin.  Once again, thank you to all who "tuned in" last Friday.

                 In this issue, we have included an article on the importance of organizing your space.  We felt that in this time of confinement, dire reporting in the media, and continuing financial and personal stress, a diversion may, if for just a brief moment, provide some relief and a suggestion for a productive use of time. 

    Take care,

    The ACTHA Board of Directors

  • March 25, 2020 10:08 AM | Brian Palm

    BY Maria Concepcion

    Although it is the obvious thing to do, you’d be surprised at how many people don’t understand the full benefits of keeping their storage units well-organized and clean. Although there are many reasons, I will point out some of them.  Perhaps the most important fact to consider – especially from the building management perspective is that a clean organized space is a proactive way to minimize insect and rodent problems. Prevention is cheaper and more effective than a costly cure.

    The basics of a clean, safe, and organized storage / locker space, is the installation of racks with the proper material and configuration to meet your space measurements and your personal needs. Storage shelving and storage bins come in a variety of heights, widths, and sizes to allow you to maximize any available space you have

    Delay Depreciation -Minimize Health Contamination - Improve Efficiency…Not only will proper organization and clean environment help keep your precious possessions clear from germs, dust, or deterioration, you will easily and efficiently be able to find what you are looking for without stress or delays.

    Increase Storage Space…In addition to preventing a mess, the increased storage space offered by proper

    organization will help reduce clutter and increase the available room to store additional items to further help you declutter your home or business.

    If you are self-employed or need to keep work materials / documents at close reach and have limited storage in your living space…Keeping an organized and clean storage unit can improve the accuracy of your inventory. Anything that needs to be used for work can be located much more easily if everything is stored properly, labeled correctly, and easily accessible.

    Keeping your storage containers labeled and organized help you determine remaining quantity, which reduces needless spending and effectively know when to replenish items.

    The benefits of keeping your storage / locker space clean and organized out weights the time and effort you invest to set it up. Once the space has been configured to meet your needs, and an organization system is established, you will only need to clean the space on a quarterly basis and tweak the system when you have life changing moments in your personal of professional life.

  • March 25, 2020 10:06 AM | Brian Palm

    By Bill Chatt of Cervantes Chatt & Prince P.C.

    Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended every aspect of everyday life and Associations have not been spared.  The first piece of advice I have is take a deep breath! So much of what we are all dealing with is in the hands of others and that makes it easy to feel helpless. That is normal. The best thing anyone can do in a situation like this is just focus on what you can control as individuals and as board members.  Let’s look at two things Associations can control: meetings and “rainy-day” projects.

                    As of this writing, the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) is recommending we all avoid gathering in crowds of more than 10 people.  That said, there are rumors and fears of impending “shelter in place” orders that may be mandated. That may or may not happen, but, with that in mind, Associations should really think twice before conducting meetings in the foreseeable future.  This is an unprecedented time in our history and with sound judgment and good intentions, boards should take comfort that not observing every possible technicality will, in all likelihood, be excused for the time being.

                    With this in mind, in the event an Association finds it really must carry out some board business or just wants to try and do so to maintain some sense of normalcy, what are the options?  Under the Illinois Condominium Property Act, a board may ratify an action taken in response to an emergency                 (immediate danger to the structural integrity of the common elements or to the life, health, safety or property of the unit owners) provided that the board gives notice to owners of the occurrence of the emergency event within 7 business days after the emergency event and a general description of the actions taken to address the event within 7 days after the emergency event.  That portion concerning “health, safety or property of the unit owners” is more relevant than ever and, to the extent a board had to take an action such as an emergency expenditure to clear a lobby or laundry area because of possible contamination, this section would apply.  Common Interest and Master Associations do not have the benefit of the explicit directive statutorily, rather, only emergency expenditures are addressed. Then again, but for a common facility such as a clubhouse, pool, or other gathering facility this may be less likely to be an issue for Master and Common Interest Associations.  To the extent a potential situation arises, boards should consult with counsel but likely an “act now ask forgiveness later” approach would apply.

                    As to conducting normal business, meeting via electronic means may be an option, particularly with so many people working from home at this time.  Funny thing is that with so many people staying at home for the time being getting a quorum for an annual meeting should be a cinch but for the edict against large gatherings! Section 18.8 of the Condominium Act and and Section 1-85 of the Common Interest Act give wide latitude in carrying out many routine tasks via electronic means.  Of course, if any owners have not consented to communication by acceptable technological means, an Association will have to deal with those owners the old fashioned way.  As to elections, provided the Association has adopted a rule to allow meeting by acceptable technological means, the board may be able to send notice and conduct meetings electronically.  This may be as simple as a conference call or joining multiple callers on a mobile phone to something as sophisticated as a web-based meeting solution.  Providers such as “Go-To Meeting” and “Zoom” offer a variety of plans that cater to these needs, and in fact, Zoom actually has a free membership plan that may work for associations.

                    For simpler issues, use of unanimous resolutions may offer a simple solution in the near term.  This may be more in line for situations where a board had previously discussed an issue and was simply waiting for the next meeting to ratify a decision.  With the assistance of their professionals, a board may adopt an action by unanimous resolution which memorializes the action taken and which otherwise could have been taken at a meeting of the board.

                    The second thing boards may want to look at during this period of down time is tackling “rainy day” projects.  Items such as getting updated census information to having the declaration reviewed or revising rules may be things a Board has put off but now might have time to address.  There are numerous other issues that don’t necessarily require face-to-face attendance that boards can address during the next 30 to 60 days or however long we are in this period of virtual shutdown.  Many professionals such as attorneys, accountants, managers, and insurance agents while not out and about, are nonetheless open for business and getting a hold of them should be easier than usual!

                    So again, don’t panic because we are all in the same boat and we will make it through this just as we did the “great recession.”  Keep your eyes on your emails a bit more carefully because though we all get our share of junk-mail for the time being you can count on more important reading materials to come your way as well.

  • February 28, 2020 2:45 PM | Brian Palm

    We would like to express our sincere appreciation to all associations and commercial members who have renewed their membership in ACTHA for 2020. We acknowledge your "vote of confidence" and we will not let you down!

    So now that 2020 is well under way, it's time to refocus on our personal and community association vision for the future. Sure, new year's resolutions are popular, but we all know that concept is not usually long-lasting and most likely not related to community association living. Visual, or, if you will, visional acuity is defined as, "sharpness or keenness; the ability to see, hear or understand something easily". In other words, it is the quality and effectiveness of your ability to "see" the details as well as the big picture. Whether you are a homeowner, Board member, or commercial provider, these skills are essential to creating or maintaining the balance in satisfaction and successful coexistence of all homeowners in a community association. We have developed a prescription to sharpen your community association acuity.

    ACTHA would like to announce "Visual Acuity" our annual Spring Conference/Tradeshow to be held at Drury Lane Conference Center in Oak Brook, IL. on April 4, 2020 from 7:45 AM-3:00 PM. All association homeowners and professionals involved with community associations are invited to attend. Topics will include an overview of information and resources provided to homeowners free of charge through the IDFPR, (Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation), and a focus on recent legislation that has been introduced and/or passed in the Illinois General Assembly that will impact community associations. Sessions will highlight clarification of insurance requirements, development and enforcement of effective rules, best practices for managing day to day operations, and outline other fiduciary responsibilities. We have expanded the "Ask an Attorney " session this year to enable all with questions and concerns to interact with a panel of attorneys who specialize in community association law. We have a dynamic variety of presenters. Throughout the day, opportunities to network with homeowners, Board members and professionals who provide services to community associations will also be provided for all in attendance.

    Please join us for the day on April 4, 2020. We look forward to meeting you and enjoying an informative and productive experience at Drury Lane. Registration is now available at

  • December 30, 2019 3:14 PM | Brian Palm

    by: Peter Santangelo, President at Wintrust Community Advantage

    When I am attending Board meetings to discuss the associations finances I am asked consistently about the associations reserves.

    Specifically do you think our reserves are adequate? Or how should we invest them?

    I quickly respond do you have a reserve study? Most associations shy away from obtaining one because they do not want to spend the money to purchase one. However, a reserve study is an important tool for Boards that can help document and allocate what a reasonable amount is to have in reserves and also estimate how long a timeframe they have before the funds may be needed for the repair and replacement cost of the common elements of the property which the association is obligated to maintain. The Reserve study estimates the useful life and replacement cost of the common elements; however these repairs are not typically addressed until actually needed which may occur before or after the estimate of the study. This allows the association Board the option to extend the repair(s) if so desired. The reserve study may also bring to light necessary repairs that may have been neglected that can now be allocated into the reserve budget.   

    The reserve study helps us work with the association in establishing a cash flow analysis chart on their reserve funds to determine an answer to their question. A cash flow analysis chart is a financial picture usually reflecting multiple years of activity showing how the association funds flow in and out of reserves. This reflects the ebb and flow of funds in the reserves also showing the estimated outflow for repair or replacement over multiple years which helps us determine if there is a shortfall during any one year in their reserve funds and can answer the question are my reserves adequate. Any shortfall during any one year would need to be addressed by asking can the repair be postponed or is it truly needed at the time designated. If the repair is needed an increase to the reserve contribution, special assessment, a loan or any combination of the three can be used to address the shortfall.

    The cash flow chart will also assist in determining what excess funds the association will have in their reserve fund and when they will need the funds for

    any estimated repair(s) and/or replacement of components of the association. Knowing this we can address the second question of how they should invest their reserve funds. We now can invest the associations excess funds based on when they will need to use them. The Association can have multiple investments with different maturity dates this is commonly known as “laddering”. Using a ladder approach can decrease interest rate risk and reinvestment risk. The association has a fiduciary responsibility and it is prudent for them to invest the reserves into an instrument that preserves the initial principal investment. So we recommend conservative investments like certificates of deposits (CD), U.S. Treasury funds (bills, notes or bonds) or brokered insured certificate of deposits depending on the amount being invested and maturity desired.  

    I have heard some horror stories of Boards that have tried to maximize yield and ended up locking up their reserve funds in investments that tied up funds longer than expected and they were unable to break the investment when funds were needed. Or the cost to get out of the investment depleted the original principal investment. So it is extremely important for Boards to be prudent and fiscally responsibly when investing their reserve funds.

    It is also important for an association to set a precedent for reserve investing. Creating a reserve fund investment policy can assist in guiding current board members and also provide continuity and direction for future boards. When drafting your reserve policy you should check your governing documents to see if you can invest in anything other than a basic safe vehicle that preserves your principal investment. A simple investment policy should be in the form of a resolution that is approved by the board encompassing some of the following items:

    Purpose – statement of intent to establish procedural requirements and guidelines

    Scope – will this discuss only reserve funds, short term reserves, long term reserves will operating funds be included?

    Investment Objective – Preservation of principal, safety, liquidity, yield?

    Delegation of Authority – suggest at least two officers to approve the transfer of funds or investment. Usually the Treasurer and President. Board should approve the investment.

    Authorized Investments – list of what instruments each fund can be invested like FDIC insured certificates of deposits, FDIC insured money market accounts, etc…

    Safekeeping and Custody – Who will be responsible for the safekeeping and review of the investments?

    These are some key components of an investment policy which can be set forth with the guidance of your management company, banker or association attorney.  

    All of these suggestions are not mandatory to follow however they do provide practical advice and direction for Board Members.

  • October 31, 2019 4:30 PM | Brian Palm

    In October Kelley and I will celebrate our 35th wedding

    anniversary, along with my 60th birthday. Two milestones that I am very grateful to reach. With that said, and after extremely careful consideration, I am announcing my retirement from Acres – effective November 30th.

    In no way am I running away from Acres or our clients. In fact, my decision is a very difficult one because I love being a part of our great team. I believe that it was Divine Intervention that placed me at Acres – it is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I will be forever indebted to Jim and the Schwantz family for 19+ years of guidance, teaching, support, and friendship. I am very 

    It is very hard to walk away and move on to the next chapter

    of a wonderful life.

    What I am running towards . . . the desire to . . .

    ·         Be a better husband, father, grandfather, and Christian
    ·         Become an author and publish 2 books
    ·         Enjoy family time on the farm
    ·         Spend more quality time with friends
    ·         Take road trips with Kelley to enjoy new restaurant adventures
    ·         Work harder on physical fitness and participate in more cycling and climbing events
    ·         Spend many great hours afield watching a bird dog in action
    ·         Give fair chase to the elusive Wapiti, Alces alces, and White-Tail Buck
    ·         Volunteer and help some great organizations
    ·         Wake up on a nice day and find myself at a Cougars or White Sox game
    ·         Be the cool dad & grandpa accompanied by the coolest mom & grandma
    ·         And the list goes on . . .

    On behalf of Kelley and myself, we wish

    you all the best in life and all of

    God’s Blessings – Peace

  • October 31, 2019 4:30 PM | Brian Palm

    Sherm M. Fields – Acres Group

    Planning and preparation are the key ingredients for success. “Chasing it” more often than not dooms you to failure.

    On 11/25/18, the National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning as Winter Storm Bruce barreled his way into Chicagoland. This storm delivered heavy, wet, snow accumulations between 4 – 12” with wind gusts of 35 – 45MPH. Following the snowfall, temperatures plummeted and turned all residual moisture into ice.

    Can you believe that on 11/23 & 11/24 we received numerous bid requests for a snow contract? We attempted to help where we could, but regardless of which contractor took on that work, can you imagine that it went well? It often times did not. I can share that we worked our butts off to take care of those last minute clients, but it did not go as well as we or anyone else would like. It was painful. I heard similar stories throughout the industry.

    I give our team a lot of credit for never quitting and getting the job done. This came at a great cost to the team. Not to mention little to no profit for the hard work in horrible conditions.

    No contractor can provide great service with no time for proper staffing, equipment management, on-site inspections, logistical planning, and client meeting. Consequently, our recommendation is that if you have not signed your snow contract – do it today! Consider this as very urgent.

    Success is working a season ahead.

    Moving forward, it is time to begin planning and preparation for upcoming winter and spring landscaping services. Yep – time to think spring!

    In the winter months, you may want to consider having your landscaping contractor provide dormant pruning to your shrubs and trees.

    Dormant shrub pruning selectively removes dead, diseased, and crossing branches -generally removing approximately 1/3 of the plant. Some shrubs benefit more from rejuvenation pruning (spireas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, weigela) which reduces the shrub to within 6 – 10” of the ground.

    The pruning benefits include but are not limited to:

    ·         Extends the life of the plant
    ·         Reduces the size of plant to fit compact areas – especially important in preparation of rapid spring growth
    ·         Improved shrub health
    ·         Better branching habits & aesthetics
    ·         Reduces the risk of disease transmission

    Dormant tree pruning is equally important and carries similar benefits as dormant shrub pruning. Factoid: Many experts recommend to extend the life and enhance the health of trees, that they should receive 5 pruning’s in the first 25 years of life.

    The winter is a great time for contractors and clients to complete a landscape success plan.

    Items to be reviewed and discussed include:

    ·         Primary and secondary contact information
    ·         Communication protocol
    ·         Special needs addresses
    ·         Garbage day and service day
    ·         Spring walk inspection date(s) “A” & “B” date to account for inclement weather
    ·         Executive summary of landscaping specifications
    ·         Discussion of client expectations and priorities
    ·         Transparent discussion of landscape enhancement budget with a goal of utilizing that investment on the “highest” and “best use” of that budget
    ·         Contract grown annual flowers ordered no later than mid-January

    This pre-season work between Association Decision Makers, Property Management, and Contractor will enhance teamwork, performance, quality, and potential cost savings.

    A pro-active approach will also reduce communication issues, frustration, and problems. It is also a lot more fun to be ahead of it (winning), rather than “chasing it” (losing).

    In the words of World Series Champion Manager Ozzie Guillen, “Fun is winning – winning is fun”.  Don’t know about you, but I am already looking forward to the season ahead! Go Sox!

  • October 31, 2019 4:30 PM | Brian Palm

    Dear Actha Members:

    Fall is in full force as the leaves are turning and the temperatures continue to fall,

    Association Board members are sending out budgets to their Unit owners and Community Association Managers are busy solidifying landscape and snow contracts.

    The ACTHA Board members have been involved implementing new features for their members. We will be offering a full line of Fall Educational Seminars this fall in our North , South and Chicago Zones. The various topics will offer you the latest information on Legislation that concerns the Community Association scene. Insurance, a topic often overlooked and misunderstood, is another topic we will be featuring this month.

    The ACTHA website continues to offer user friendly on line registration and payment features as well as access to our Online Directory.

    Our Social Media presence is growing and we are posting on Facebook and as well as other social media outlets.

    Our Newsletter is being revamped giving our commercial members opportunities to contribute articles featuring pertinent information to our Association members as well as contributions from top bloggers in the community association scene.

    Our Commercial advertising packages are being revamped offering advertising opportunities at our Educational Seminars, Website advertising presence, Newsletter Ads, and of course our Drury Lane 2020 Event.

    An important reminder to our Association and Commercial members , it is time for renewal of your Association and Commercial ACTHA Memberships. We will be sending out our renewal statements shortly, so please be on the look out for your upcoming invoices.

    Along with your renewal, we would like to have your contact information updated such as current Board Members and any unit owners that you wish to contribute e mail addresses with proper consent. Please remember everyone in your Association benefits from an Association membership. All unit owners as well as Board members may be signed up to receive website access and newsletter send outs.

    The Board of Directors would like to thank you in advance for your updated contact information and renewal of both Commercial and Association Memberships.

    Success comes through communication and relationships. ACTHA is all about You!

    All the best,

    Diane F. Pagoulatos, ACTHA President 

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