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  • December 18, 2018 2:12 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By : Tom Skweres of ACM Community Management and ACTHA Board Member 

    Failure to educate. It’s essential that Board Members read and understand their governing documents, rules and State law. The board should know what is expected of them including how meetings should run.

    Fiscal irresponsibility. Board members not taking time to read and understand the financials can cause problems. It is imperative that board members not fall into a false sense of security and assume that everything is running smoothly. There should be proper checks and balances including obtaining two signatures on checks.

    Selective enforcement or failure to uniformly enforce governing documents. Often boards are accused of playing favorites. This would include board members attempting to institute new policies and ground rules. Over regulating can pose a problem. Rules should be reasonable. It is important to be fair and consistent.

    Failure to maintain confidentiality or generating gossip. There are often times when boards discuss confidential items. It is wrong for board members to knowingly disseminate confidential items to residents. In doing so they are opening themselves as well as the association to possible litigation.

    Micromanaging and abusing power. It is important that the board works with their management company for the daily operations of the property. Board members should not be making decisions in their self-interest. Failure to disclose personal interest can create conflict.

    Failure to collect overdue assessments. While boards sympathize with owners during hard times, delaying assessment collections hurts the cash flow of the association, making it difficult to fulfill its financial obligations and setting a precedent for other owners to make late assessment payments without fear of legal action. Boards should have a collection policy whereby owners, at a certain period when past due, the board pursues legal action.

  • December 18, 2018 2:01 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By Steven Siegel of First Call CSS

    We need to be concerned about what goes on around us. How can we approach and handle situations and how can we assist our communities in becoming safer areas to inhabit? As you choose to live where you do, it is your responsibility to love and care about your family and community and to respond to situations whenever persons, situations or incidents arise or occur that could pose harm.

    The pertinent question for most is not how, but what will happen should you encounter a situation where life or property is threatened. In truth, if we prepare before the situation occurs, we may be able to eliminate the opportunity for the situation having a negative outcome.

    Use of the following options are integral in helping secure your community and surroundings more effectively.

    Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)

     Is your property neat and clean? Are your trees and shrubbery trimmed? Do you eliminate places where the “bad guys” can hide? A clean environment says that you care. Do not create areas where people can hide and wait for an opportunity to pounce. By not cleaning and maintaining your property you are sending a message that you don’t care. You are subconsciously inviting the “bad guys” in.


    A well-lit area is a huge crime deterrent. Make sure you lights work. Change burnt out bulbs immediately.

    Security Cameras. Traditional cameras and monitors are common. Home security systems are available and inexpensive. Professional companies can remotely monitor your property via cameras. Cameras are great; but, they need to be  monitored in order for a quick response should a situation occur. The ability to record and store video for a minimum of 30 days is also very beneficial.

    Cellular/Smart Telephones

    An advantage of smartphones is that they take photos and also record video and audio. It’s quite simple to learn how to use these features. These capabilities can help prevent a situation from occurring and can provide proof that there is/was a problem, which should be addressed. Use your telephone to call the police, security or manager when the situation presents itself.


    Any deterrent is better than none. Keep doors and garages closed and locked. Use a security bar or piece of wood to keep your sliding door secured. A security brace will keep your door from being forced in. Close the door behind you in common areas. If you see an open door, close it. If it should be locked and isn’t, lock it. Don’t allow someone to gain unauthorized access by “piggybacking” in. Don’t allow a crime of opportunity. Take away the easy opportunities, and make it more difficult for the “bad guy.” Close and lock windows. If you can use security bars and you feel you need to, before installing, refer to your association documents, board or manager to see if they are permissible.


    As long as fences are maintained with no breaks or areas that have fallen, they help to provide an additional deterrent. They slow the “bad guy” down and help to protect the areas inside the perimeter.


    Timers are an excellent way to turn lights on/off when you are not home. Utilize three of them and think logically as you place them in your home. Move them around week to week. Unpredictability is key. Bad guys look for patterns—don’t be predictable. Change the time and locations, Opportunity and predictability are the bad guy’s friends—don’t make their lives easier.

    Common Sense 

    Common sense is a valuable commodity; good judgment is gold. Always be thinking “if—then “ and not “what-if”. If you see someone lurking around your car, do not approach, but stay back and prepare to call security or the police. Take mental notes regarding the person’s features (height, skin color, mustache/beard, weight, hair length, glasses, clothes, time, etc.). Snap a photo if intentions are nefarious, note how fast they turn and leave. If they are just admiring your car, they won’t act in a strange manner. Always think common sense—it will keep you from placing yourself or those near you in a dangerous situation. Don’t forget—most people will respond when they hear a person yell, “FIRE!"

    Security Officers/ Lobby Attendants/Patrol Officers/ Door Staff

    Not only do these trained professionals monitor your property, but they are also specially trained to observe, report and take appropriate action. They provide a visual deterrent, and can respond to many different situations. An individual in a clean crisp uniform is a prime example of pride and can deter situations from happening through visibility and attentiveness. There are many functions security officers provide in varying capacities depending on your property’s need and requirements.

    Alarms/Motion Detectors/ Card Access and FOBs 

    Many different types are available. Choose one that makes the most sense for you and your property. Motion detectors are very efficient for in-home use; models that are connected to lighting are even better. Loud alarms are great. All can be monitored on – site or tied to a central station for remote monitoring. They can also be connected to your smart phone to alert you immediately.

    In conclusion, there are many types of security methods available. Whether inexpensive or expensive, simple or complicated, security professionals and/or monitors, you can find a product or service that fulfills your needs and budget. Research—the internet is a wonderful tool. Network— ask others what has worked for them. If we all do our part—we all stay safe. Together we are the solution. Let’s not let neglect or carelessness lead to disastrous consequences. 

  • December 18, 2018 1:54 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: James M 

    Courtesy of, click here to view the original article

    One of the first steps in making a difference is becoming involved in your community. Because association living is the most noticeable and accessible to most homeowners today, this community involvement will often begin with your association.

    So how do you become involved in your community? One way to become involved in your association is to submit your name to serve as a volunteer board member for your association. The first step in this process is to review your association’s governing documents to determine any qualifications for service on the board of directors.

    Qualification for service on an association board is often as simple as being an owner within the community. Other qualifications may include being in good standing (i.e. your dues are not delinquent; you are not in violation of any of the association’s governing documents; etc.). If you meet the qualifications for service on the board of directors, you can submit your name as a candidate.

    Different associations handle candidate nominations differently. Some associations merely request names from the membership and place all of these names on the ballot. Other associations have a nomination committee that reviews potential candidates and submits the official candidate list. Before submitting your name, you should review your association’s governing documents so that you can follow all of the appropriate steps for becoming a qualified candidate for possible election.

    Once you have submitted your name, you might be thinking, “What in the world have I just done?!” Don’t be discouraged! You have taken the first step in becoming involved in your association. Yay!

    The next step in the process is to get your campaign going so you can be elected by the membership. This might involve sending out a candidate statement describing yourself or it might involve walking around your community knocking on doors to meet your neighbors and requesting that they vote for you. You should view this process as an opportunity to get to know your neighbors at the same time as collecting votes.

    If you are elected to the board you will spend the next year or more serving your community as a fiduciary. Congratulations! If you are not elected do not despair, all is not lost!

    Service on the board is not the only manner by which you can serve your community.  If you are not elected to the board at the annual meeting you should immediately approach the board and volunteer to serve on a committee. It is often difficult for a 3, 5 or even 7 member board of directors to do everything necessary to run an association. Volunteer board members will likely welcome the assistance you offer. If there are particular issues which concern you, make sure to identify them to the board and offer to serve on a committee designed to address the issues. You will be most effective when working to address an issue that you find to be important.

    If the committees are full or the board declines your offer, you can still be involved in your community. Attending board meetings will offer insight into the issues facing the association and will permit you to offer comments (during open forum) to the board and to discuss issues concerning the board with your neighbors. Many owners are unaware of the hundreds of issues facing the board on a monthly basis. By attending board meetings, you will understand that it is not as easy to run the association as it might seem from the outside. Consider attending board meetings as your homework for election to the board in future years.

    If you have computer skills, you can offer your expertise to the board by offering to create and/or maintain an association website or draft a newsletter for the association. If you have an accounting background, you can offer your assistance in preparing the association’s budget or serving on a finance or budget committee. If you have a knack for planning parties, offer to organize a social event for the entire community. If you have contracting or landscaping knowledge, you can offer your assistance to review landscaping plans or proposed construction to provide your advice to the board of directors.

    Remember that your skills are valuable and offering them to the board will work to the betterment of the entire community. Personal involvement is the first step towards understanding the issues facing your community and making a positive difference in resolving those issues!

  • December 18, 2018 1:51 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By Teresa Mears

    Courtesy of, click here to view the original article 

    If you buy a condominium, townhouse or single-family home in a newer development, you’re likely to become a member of a community association.

    About 20 percent of Americans live in a community governed by a condo association, homeowners association or co-op board, according to the Community Associations Institute, which educates volunteer board members and association management professionals. The number of communities covered by associations has grown from about 10,000 in 1970 to more than 333,000 today.

    Community associations come with rules that determine everything from the number of pets you can own to what color you can paint your front door. Some include amenities such as pools, clubhouses and golf courses, while others provide services such as road maintenance and streetlights.

    The associations are set up by developers and then turned over to a volunteer board of homeowners once all the units in the development are sold. Those volunteers are responsible for making sure facilities are maintained, collecting maintenance dues and enforcing the rules.

    “This is the ultimate form of democracy,” says Frank Rathbun, vice president of communications for the CAI.

    While stories of homeowners associations that deny permission for kids with cancer to build a playhouse or veterans to fly a flag on the wrong kind of pole may steal the headlines, CAI statistics show that 64 percent of residents are satisfied with their community association experience and 26 percent are neutral, with only 10 percent dissatisfied, according to a 2014 survey.

    But the same survey shows that almost a quarter of residents have experienced a significant disagreement with their association, with landscaping and parking being the two most common causes, followed by finances and architectural issues.

    Whether you like or hate the rules that come with community association life, once you’ve bought or rented in an association, you’ve signed on. Being a member of an association ties your fate to your neighbors’ in ways that living in a traditional subdivision does not.

    “You have to overcome that ‘my home is my castle’ issue,” Rathbun says.

    Rules are designed to protect property values, and 70 percent of the respondents in the CAI survey believe they do, while 26 percent believe they make no difference. Disagreements over which rules are required to protect property values often leads to conflicts that can cost residents both time and money if they’re handled poorly.

    “People ought to know that being in a condo is a give-and-take kind of thing,” says Patrick Hohman, author of “Condos Townhomes and Home Owner Associations: How to Make Your Investment Safer” and a longtime volunteer board member who is now a part-time, on-site manager at a condominium near Louisville, Kentucky. He also runs an educational website called

    “It’s a nonstop process of building trust and maintaining trust,” Hohman says. “You learn to be forgiving of others and forgiving of yourself. You deal with people where they are and as they are. It’s kind of like dealing with your extended family at Thanksgiving.”

    One challenge for associations is that volunteer board members with no property management experience are charged with maintaining hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of property. About two-thirds of associations hire professional managers, but the rest are managed by the residents themselves.

    “Board members are almost never trained in property management,” says Richard Thompson, who publishes The Regenesis Report, a weekly newsletter for board members and developers. He also writes a syndicated column for Realty Times and just published the book “Trade HOA Stress for Success.” He recommends professional management – hiring trained and experienced property managers to oversee operations – for most associations. “If the board hires competent people, they’re going to stay ahead of the curve and not put fires out,” he says.

    Communities are dependent upon the skills and personalities that residents and board members bring to the table. Some people are better than others at working with their neighbors, and residents with poor people skills can create problems for everyone, especially if they get on the board.

    Experts say that communications and transparency – being very clear about where the money goes, welcoming residents and board meetings and sharing information about how decisions are made – go a long way toward building community harmony.

    “There is no substitution for communication between the association and the residents,” Rathbun says.

    Here are seven tips getting along in a homeowners association.

    Know the rules before you move in. Too few prospective residents understand the rules before they buy or rent. It’s particularly important to be able to live with policies on pets, parking, collection, rentals, noise and architectural guidelines. “Folks buy into a homeowner association without any clue of what they’re obligated to do,” Thompson says. “Few prospective buyers research these things before they close the deal.”

    Follow proper procedures. Boards should set up clear procedures for everything from getting permission to paint your front door to rental applications to installing a satellite dish, and homeowners should expect to follow those procedures.

    Go to your neighbor before you go to the board. The board is there to make sure the rules and regulations of the development are followed, but if your neighbor’s loud music annoys you, talk to your neighbor first before taking your complaint to the HOA board.

    If you don’t like a rule, get your neighbors together to change it. Changing circumstances may make some rules outmoded, and boards should review the rules every few years to make sure they’re all serving the community. If you don’t like a rule, talk to your neighbors and petition the board collectively for a change.

    Volunteer to help your community. It’s not always evident from the outside exactly what work the board of directors is doing and what issues the community faces. Once you move in, volunteer to help with a project or serve on a committee, and expect to serve on the board at some point. “Get involved. Don’t wait until you’re dissatisfied about something,” Rathbun says.

    Try to stay out of court. Every community has a few people who think the rules don’t apply to them, and some would rather fight than comply. A court battle can be costly, both in money and in emotional turmoil within the community. “Win, lose or draw, we are still talking about neighbors who have this bigger wall between them,” Thompson says. Adds Rathbun: “Be reasonable: That applies to both the homeowners and the volunteer homeowners who serve on the board.”

    Have a long-range plan. State laws regarding reserves and planning vary, but it always makes sense to plan for items you know will have to be replaced or repaired, such as roads, roofs and pools. If the community has no reserves and no plan, a roof leak at a condominium complex could mean a surprise assessment of thousands of dollars for each homeowner. “If the board had been collecting money and planning for this … every member along the timeline would have been paying some portion,” Thompson says.

  • December 17, 2018 4:40 PM | Talia Lionetti

    With prescription prices and utility bills rising faster than Social Security payments, a tax-relief program can help senior citizens who are hard-pressed to pay their property taxes, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said today.

    Seniors whose annual household income is $55,000 or less can apply to the Senior Citizen Real Estate Tax Deferral Program for loans to cover property tax payments.

    “When property taxes are due, too many of our elderly are forced to make difficult choices about which bills to pay,” Pappas said. “This program is one way to ease their worries.”

    The State of Illinois issues the loans, which do not have to be repaid until the property is sold or the homeowner dies. An interest rate of 6 percent per year is charged by the state. The maximum loan is $5,000 per year. To qualify, homeowners must be at least 65 years old by June 1 of the year in which the application is made.

    To apply:

    • Download the application from
    • Submit the completed application and copies of the required documents to the Treasurer’s Office
    • The deadline is March 1, 2019. Applications after that date cannot be accepted
    • Homeowners must reapply every year

    Download the original article here

  • December 17, 2018 4:37 PM | Talia Lionetti

    In response to a high volume of requests by taxpayers, accountants and tax advisors, Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said today she has posted next year’s First Installment property tax bill to, nearly three months before the due date.

    This is the earliest that First Installment payments have been accepted. Property owners should consult with a tax professional about income tax deductions for 2018.

    Tax Year 2018 First Installment taxes, due March 1, 2019, are 55 percent of the prior year's total tax.

    You may look up your tax bill on by using your address or 14-digit Property Index Number (PIN). Here’s how to pay:

    • Go to and select “Make an Online Payment”
    • Download and print your bill from the website and either:
    • Mail it to the Treasurer’s Office, or
    • Pay in person at a Chase bank branch or the Treasurer’s Office

    Download the original article here

  • December 03, 2018 4:02 PM | Talia Lionetti

    Tom Skweres

    Tom has been in the property management industry for over 35 years.  Tom is currently the Vice President for ACM Community Management and is responsible for marketing, sales, Board member education and monthly manager training.  Tom is a licensed community association manager through the State of Illinois.

    Tom was an Adjunct Faculty member at the College of DuPage for twenty-five years in the facility and property management department and is an Advisor at DePaul University in their School of New Learning.

    Tom is an active committee member of ACTHA (the Association of Condominium and Townhouse and Homeowners Associations), a member of CAI (Community Associations Institute) and a Past-President of ABOMA (the Apartment Building Owners and Managers Association).  Tom is also an Advisory Committee member for CondoLifestyles magazine.

    Tom was the Board Secretary for his former condominium association and a past Board member of the Hinswood Homeowners Association, where he and his family currently live. 

    Tom is an industry article contributor, seminar presenter and published author.

    Marcia Caruso 

    Marcia Caruso began her career in accounting in an apartment community in Pittsburgh and worked her way up to the position of comptroller while attending nightly college classes. She received her degree in accounting shortly after from Lehigh University.

    Once having completed her education, she moved on to become the first woman senior financial analyst. From there she began her 46 year long career in property management and became one of the “grandes dames” in the industry. Her career included working in the states of Connecticut, Florida and then on to Illinois managing a Chicago retirement community in 1984.

    As Marcia worked her way up the chain of command in management she began training others in the field of property management beginning in 1986.

    In 1990 Marcia started working in condominium management. She received her CPM number 7529 which designates an early number when it was a male dominated industry.

    As a woman pioneer in the industry, she has been a real estate broker in the three states of Connecticut, Florida and Illinois specifically in the metropolitan Chicago land area. She also holds her LCAM certification.

    Marcia came to Illinois in 1990 and opened up Caruso Management Group in 2002. Since this time, Marcia has been very active in both ACTHA and CAI. Marcia fostered and facilitated the Learn and Lead program for ACTHA, which trains Board Members in Community governance and Illinois Condo Law. This training started a chain reaction in the industry as others went on to duplicate her efforts in educating Board members and Managers in Community Association living.

    Additionally Marcia expanded her mentoring and training of others to include the responsibilities of budgeting, overseeing maintenance projects and all areas of management through the channels of ACTHA and CAI.

    In 2015 Caruso Management Group was sold to RealManage. Marcia continues working at RealManage as well as mentoring and training other managers throughout the industry.

  • November 28, 2018 4:26 PM | Talia Lionetti

    Countryside Bank specializes in Property Management, Condominium, Townhome and Homeowners Association banking. We work with associations of all sizes and have the products to fit your different needs.  We understand the demanding day-to-day operations of your business. Our Business Bankers help associations like yours meet their treasury management and financial needs. Let our team of experts show you how we can be the key to your success! 

    • Free Operating Account
    • High Yielding Reserve Account
    • HOA Financing 
    • Lockbox 
    • Remote Deposit/Mobile Banking
    • Treasury Management
    • Free Onsite Training for Staff 
    • Educational Seminars offered throughout the year, go to for more information

    Call Kristin Walker today to discover how partnering with Countryside Bank is the smart choice for your association.

    Kristin Walker

    Countryside Bank


  • November 28, 2018 10:29 AM | Talia Lionetti

    Patricia Bialek, Vice President of First Service Residential, was the speaker on November 27, 2018 at the Countyside Bank, 6734 Joliet Rd, Countryside, Illinois. Kristin Walker was the bank official that hosted the event. The topic was Building a Better Community, How to End Apathy? 

    The interested crowd was given a myriad of ideas on how to “pep up” the community. A power point presentation accompanied her energetic presentation.

    Her main points included:

    • Community Apathy is a bad habit .
    • Community members need a “push cultivated by the Association leaders.
    • Survey the community
    • Employ the community website
    • Newsletters and establishment of website with unit owners contributions.
    • Constant Communications with unit owners.
    • Establish Committees and Volunteers after points of interest are known through the results of the survey.
    • Tap into the community “beavers” :Those who wish to contribute time.
    • Listen to the suggestions and value each contribution.
    • Have picnics, pool get-togethers organized by the committees.
    • Tap into the community interests. Organize clubs of interest. Start traditions.
    • Use the Community Clubhouse for social purposes as well as Association Meetings.

    She gave not only suggestions but concrete examples on how to implement the suggestions.

    Another resource was community businesses, realtors and local, state and Federal Officials and involvement in the ACTHA and CAI organizations.

    The attendees walked away energized and eager to implement the ideas Patricia Bialek offered.

    In conclusion one would summarize the plan for community building . Actions bring results. Involvement of all members of the Community is the formula. Reaching out to the community is the starting point of success. Using the talents of the community and seeking to value the contributions of the volunteers causes a cycle of involvement. Who wouldn’t want to try out these ideas?

    The ACTHA Board of Directors wants to publicly thank Patricia Bialek for her contributions to ACTHA . Also ACTHA Board of Directors would like to thank Kristin Walker, of Countryside Bank for providing our members the location, dinner and refreshments for the evening.

  • November 28, 2018 10:14 AM | Talia Lionetti

    On November 15, 2018 the ACTHA membership had the privilege of hearing Kathryn Formeller speak on the topic of DOING WHAT'S RIGHT FOR YOUR ASSOCIATION: WHEN OWNERS DON’T PAY ASSESSMENTS, collection of Delinquent Assessments and Foreclosures at the Tahoe Village Condominium Association in Wheeling, Illinois. A gathering of Association members attended the seminar during an evening of inclement weather. Kathy Formeller is partner at Tressler LLP.

    Kathryn regularly represents condominium associations as creditors in both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy proceedings seeking to modify the automatic stay so that they can pursue their state court remedies. Kat is the lead attorney for the Condominium & Common Interest Community Association Law practice. Her practice includes representing condominium associations and common interest community associations in a variety of areas, including rule enforcement, interpretation of governing documents, review and negotiation of contracts, and collection of assessments. She also provides advice to clients on their rights and responsibilities under the Condominium Property Act, Forcible Entry and Detainer Act, General Not for Profit Corporation Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act. Furthermore, Kat practices in the area of commercial litigation nationwide and counsels clients with respect to a wide variety of business disputes.

    In her presentation she explained the need for community association assessments, foreclosures and their threat to the collection of assessments. She focused on sections of the Condo Act 9 (g) 4 and 9 (g) 5 that provide condo associations with an avenue to collect delinquent assessments and attorney fees in foreclosure cases. She explained how to proceed in the collection of delinquent assessments using the Condo Act as your guide.

    She explained the six month rule and the various case laws which shaped the collection and foreclosure process. Seminar attendees were given the opportunity to ask questions pertaining to their association’s challenges and problems.

    The ACTHA board appreciates the expertise of Kathryn Formeller and is grateful for her participation as a presenter at the Seminar monthly series. Our members and guests gained much knowledge on the featured topic.

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