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  • April 01, 2019 8:44 AM | Anonymous

    Dr. Brandon Hamilton, Ombudsperson for Tree Farm Estates

    I grew up in Gary, Indiana. After high school and a period in the Navy, I went to colleges in Chicago, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. With all of this travel, I never thought about purchasing property. I also decided to stay flexible so that I could accept employment anywhere. I worked in Boston, San Diego, Valparaiso (Indiana) just to name a few cities. After completing my doctorate in business, I decided to settle in the Chicagoland area. I purchased a townhome in Tree Farm Estates, just on the southern outskirts of Chicago in the Village of Calumet Park.

    I had never lived anywhere long enough to recognize that now, as a homeowner, I also became a part of a community. I don’t want to take that distinction for granted. Let’s talk about the word community. Some have defined a community as a group of people living in the same defined area, sharing the same basic values and sharing an organizational framework. Sociologists and geographers define a community as any set of social relationships operating within certain boundaries. The Village of Calumet Park has very small boundaries as it is just one square mile with about 8,000 residents. I knew nothing of the history and sociology and culture of this little village, so I had to learn from neighbors. I also became an active citizen, attending numerous municipality meetings. I had some vary courageous conversations with elected officials. I soon was appointed the Director of Community Relations for the Village. For those that move into a condominium or homeowner associations, your community is also a population that is geographically focused and with a collective identity and with a collective purpose. I started to get a better grasp of the word community as I read the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, Easements and Restrictions for Tree Farm Estates Townhome Association. This was difficult to grasp at first reading because there were a lot of terms and definitions that were new to me. As I became comfortable with this governing document and my new home, I was invited by some neighbors to attend a meeting to discuss forming an association. After just a few minutes of this meeting, I realized that the current owners were actually forming an organization that would gather complaints to express to the developer’s lawyer, the person currently running the association. I was inexperienced with shared ownership, but I did not think that our community should be a complex mass of needs and problems but rather a diverse web of collaborative citizens. The developer’s lawyer informed us that we had to officially form an association and select a management company as our Board of Managers. I was elected president of the Board of Directors as the owners recognized my experience as an officer of many not-for-profit boards. We decided against a management company.

    We became self-managed by combining the roles of the Board of Directors and the Board of Managers. Influenced by a tradition of 19th century romanticism, some sociologists have regarded community as necessarily beneficial to human needs and social interaction. There can be numerous community platforms for common interest communities: There are communities of action, communities of practice, communities of place, communities of interest and communities of circumstances. We knew that we are clearly a “community of place” united by geography. However, many of us moved into the townhome complex without knowing that this is a shared ownership community. You would certainly, therefore, view this association as a “community of circumstances,” united by challenges not of our making. But even this framework is not bad as we learned to focus as a community on dealing with various situations collaboratively. As I diagnosed our community socially, politically, culturally and economically, I saw a need to create a more effective community model. Some of the owners had gotten to know their neighbors well enough such that we could accept that we developed into a “community of interest” focusing on a passion for the same values and activities. Members of a community of interest generally share the same common interest focusing upon depth of passion for that interest. We realized that the Board of Directors needed to push toward more hardcore discussions about the applicability of the bylaws, declarations, rules and regulations. As leaders of the community of interest, our Board of Directors began to evolve into a “community of action,” using collective power to develop policies and make changes. We needed to understand our community and the various social groups that formed. We had to learn how to gather commitments from primary groups, secondary groups, ingroups and outgroups. Primary groups are the enduring owners. Secondary groups lack the emotional bonding or sharing of common values. Ingroups share a sense of identity. Outgroups have no sense of loyalty to the association. This community of action framework is very effective when there is community commitment. We are still struggling at Tree Farm Estates with forming committed committees to help us share best practices.

    I am now the ombudsperson for Tree Farm Estates with a focus on educating unit owners and the Board of Directors about the Common Interest Community Act and complying with the laws governing common interest community property.

    Whatever the definitional difficulties, all communities, both real and symbolic, exist and operate within boundaries. These boundaries serve to demarcate social membership from non-membership. Whatever framework you see in your association, there are actions that you can take to build an ideology of community in your condominium or homeowner association boundaries. You can invite your neighbors over for a meal. You can mentor a youth in the association. You can help simply by picking up litter on the property if you see it. It is my hope by sharing my leadership experiences at Tree Farm Estates that your association learns to work together to make yours a community where you are all proud to be members.

    Dr. Brandon Hamilton

  • April 01, 2019 12:30 AM | Anonymous

    By: Michael C. Kim, Michael C. Kim & Associates

    Michael C. Kim, ACTHA member and ASCO General Counsel, highlights the importance of condominium elections and the steps that need to be taken to ensure a fair, legal election. 

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  • April 01, 2019 12:30 AM | Anonymous

    By: Kelly Elmore, Principal at Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit

    When disaster strikes your Association, are you prepared? Here are four steps to take when faced with damage to your Association’s property.

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  • April 01, 2019 12:30 AM | Anonymous

    By: Adams Roofing

    Condensation naturally occurs whenever warm, moisture-laden air contacts a cooler surface.

    Similar to how beads of moisture collect on the outside of an ice-filled glass in summer, condensation can form on the underside of your roof in winter. Warmth escaping from your living space into the attic is the catalyst for condensation formation. If this is occurring in your home, it’s vital to learn about the damage it can cause and how to resolve it.

    Read More

  • April 01, 2019 12:30 AM | Anonymous

    By: Rosen Management

    Community Association Board Members and Managers are responsible for carrying out businesses that protect millions of dollars worth of real estate. Daily problems arise that range in magnitude and importance, but all require sound business judgment to resolve. Many times, what is also required is the cooperation or consensus of Association residents comprised of different interests, values and personalities. Their cooperation can mean the difference between solving a problem on paper and actually solving it. It is virtually impossible to solve big or complex problems without having adverse effects on at least some interests. Consequently, almost any big or complex problem will not get unanimous support. 

    Read More

  • February 21, 2019 1:57 PM | Talia Lionetti

    Pro Home 1 Inc. is an independent contractor with over 40+ years of combined residential and multi-family complex construction experience. Pro Home 1, what recognized and awarded by Remodeling Magazine as a BIG50 Americas top Remodeler and has received a Business Excellence award by Daily Herald Business Ledger.  We provide straight talk and help our customers to understand their options, so they can make the best-informed decision. Our vision is to become the area's most trusted and respected provider of quality remodeling and be rewarded by customer's increase pride in their home. 

    Services include: Roofing, Siding, Soffits, Gutters, Balconies and windows/doors.

  • February 20, 2019 12:06 PM | Talia Lionetti

    Deborah Hagan will serve as Secretary of Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).* For over 36 years, Hagan has been a strong and exemplary advocate for consumer protection in the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. In her role as leader of the Consumer Protection Division, she advanced and defended the interests of Illinois consumers in critical areas such as mortgage origination and servicing, student loan servicing, debt collection, identity theft and other areas of financial risk. Hagan has played a critical leadership role in many groundbreaking settlements on the state and national level, helping to recover billions of dollars in restitution for victims of consumer fraud and other wrongful conduct. In addition to her current role which she has held since 2004, Hagan has served as bureau chief, deputy bureau chief and assistant attorney general. She received her Juris Doctor from the University of Dayton School of Law and her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Miami University.

    Mario Treto, Jr. will serve as Director of Real Estate at IDFPR.* Treto currently serves as Deputy City Attorney for the City of Evanston where he provides legal counsel to its elected officials, departments, and staff with compliance, transactional, and corporate matters. Prior to entering the public sector, he worked at a Chicago-based law firm focusing his practice on commercial and residential real estate, corporate law and commercial transactions. Treto is a nationally recognized lawyer by various organizations, including the International Municipal Lawyers Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and the National LGBT Bar. He also serves as board chair of Howard Brown Health, a federally qualified health center in the Chicagoland area with ten clinics and a youth center serving 35,000 patients. He received his Juris Doctor from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law and his Bachelor of Arts in biology and psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.
    Francisco Menchaca will continue to serve as Director of Financial Institutions at IDFPR.* Menchaca has held the post since his appointment by Gov. Quinn in July 2013 and previously served the department as credit union supervisor. Prior to beginning state service, Menchaca developed an extensive resume managing financial institutions and governmental agencies at the Federal Deposit Insurance Company (FDIC). He has spent over twenty years of his career in the financial industry, notably serving as the First Vice President at Bank One, where he also spearheaded the Latino Employee Network. Menchaca is a proponent of robust public-private partnerships and community outreach, citing his youth in the Pilsen/Little Village neighborhood as his inspiration in seeking to provide opportunities for educational and economic development. He received his Master of Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago and his Bachelor of Arts from Northwestern University.
    Jessica Baer will continue to serve as Director of Professional Regulation at IDFPR.*
     Baer has held the post since her appointment by Gov. Rauner in September 2016 and previously served the department as general counsel. In that role, she oversaw the entire legal department for the agency, providing input on a number of topics including pending litigation, labor issues, and legislation. Prior to joining IDFPR, Baer spent six years as an associate at K&L Gates focusing on litigation and antitrust law. Her cases involved complex contractual disputes, antitrust litigation and regulatory compliance counseling. Baer is licensed to practice law in Illinois.  She earned her Juris Doctor from DePaul University and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
    Click here to view the previous appointments to the Pritzker administration.

  • February 04, 2019 3:53 PM | Talia Lionetti

    The Cook County property tax bill due March 1, 2019, shows taxpayers the debt of every local government that levies taxes on their homes and other real estate, helping explain why taxes rise, Treasurer Maria Pappas said today.

    “The financial challenges facing local governments can seem unreal because the numbers are so large,” Pappas said. “The tax bills show homeowners the problems are indeed real.”

    Anywhere from five to 13 taxing districts — local governments and school districts — levy taxes on a given property, Pappas explained.

    On the front of every bill is a section called “Taxing District Debt and Financial Data,” which provides detailed information for each taxing district, including:

    • Money owed by your taxing districts
    • Pension and health care amounts promised by your taxing districts
    • Amount of pension and health care shortage
    • Percentage of pension and health care costs taxing districts can pay

    The First Installment for Tax Year 2018 is due March 1, 2019. The First Installment is always 55 percent of the prior year’s total taxes. About 1.7 million property tax bills have been mailed to owners of homes, businesses and land, Pappas said. Property owners can download a copy of the new bill by going to

    Click here to download the article. 

  • February 04, 2019 3:45 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: Phil Mariotti, Woodland Windows & Doors


    noun: 1. the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

    The word continuity is often overused in homeowners associations.  Board members and managers often use it as a means of defense against “off the wall” request in the same way that middle school teachers use “insubordination” as the catch all for unruly behavior. 

    When you stop and consider the reason behind the rule, there really is a value in keeping continuity in a community.  In my travels to various condo & townhome buildings, I have seen a stark contrast in communities that value keeping the buildings “looking alike” verses those that take the “laissez faire” approach to exterior architectural modifications. 

    The challenge in this regard is evaluating homeowner’s individual expression, style, and preference with the good of the community at large.  Sometimes these two spheres cannot coexist and the community value needs to oversee the individual value. 

    One of the secrets to limiting the amount of conflict between the individual owners and the association at large is to be clear in guidance regarding the exterior standards for the association.  For instance, in regards to window and door replacement request it is helpful for the association to offer a clear specification for owners to follow.

    If the current doors are entry doors with 9 lites and 2 panels below, provide some acceptable replacement models for homeowners to follow and also a place where they can purchase the door locally with a contractor who is familiar with the association’s guidelines.  This will limit the amount of frustration for owners who go shopping and have their heart set on a front door with decorative glass. 

    Additionally, outside of white windows and doors, the exterior color can provide a significant problem in replacement request.  Manufacturers often use the same name but have different shades of the same color.  Inversely, manufactures also in many cases have different names for the same color.  Specifying a product which does meet the needs of the community offers the guidance that the majority of homeowners are looking for such as “Marvin Ultimate Double Hung Windows with Evergreen Clad Exterior” instead of just saying to make sure the windows have a green exterior. 

    Not only is it important to be specific in the type of windows or doors that residents will install into their homes, but is also equally important to specify some guidelines for the installation method that will affect not only the final look of the product, but also the integrity of the building. 

    There are some instances when contractors can install a new window while leaving the original window frame in place, while in most cases this will result in a different look for the building.  The glass will be smaller as well as the exterior aluminum trim being wider.  In these cases, it will be difficult for the association to know the method of replacement that is planned unless the contractor is thorough and specific in the contract document. 

    The community can combat the installation variable issue by working with a reliable contractor or architect/engineer to specify the basic installation requirements such as requiring complete removal of the existing windows and frames in the document provided to owners.  It may be beneficial to require the homeowner and contractor to sign off on receipt of the installation specifications and window/door specification to avoid confusion between the contractor and homeowner.

    Lastly, it is important in the architectural process to require the certificate of insurance information from the contractors to avoid claims against the association.  If the association is clear in insurance requirements through a specification for windows and doors, this will avoid the issue on the back end of approval when the insurance provisions of the contractor do not meet the association requirements and deposits have already been made by homeowners. 

    Essentially, if the homeowners associations become more proactive in providing clear guidance for homeowners in regards to the window and door replacement requirements, then they will be less likely to end up in a regrettable position of dispute with homeowners/contractors after work has been complete.  Encouraging owners to work with reputable contractors providing reputable products will also encourage the quality assurance for the building and will also streamline the architectural approval process.

    This will lead to “continuity” which is a key component in maintaining the “curb appeal” of an association and showing potential “owners” in the market that the association has order.  Maintaining the curb appeal, encourages a sense of pride in ownership which also directly impacts the desirability of a given community and ultimately impacts home value.  Start the process of developing a clear and concise specification for window and door replacement in your community today! 

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