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March 25, 2020 10:06 AM | Deleted user

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.

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