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  • November 27, 2018 2:28 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: Brad Schneider of Condo CPA


    Most homeowners and managers understand that Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) can perform audit services and issue an audit report on a community association’s financial statements. However, some may not be familiar with the alternatives to an audit. CPAs can provide other levels of services such as a Review, Compilation or an Agreed upon procedures engagement. The purpose of these engagements is to add credibility to and enhance the reliability of the Association’s financial statements. All audit and review engagements must be performed by an independent CPA. A compilation can be performed by a CPA that is not independent from the association but must state that fact in the accountant’s report included with the financial statements.


    The compilation, which is the lowest level of service that a CPA can provide for a client’s financial statements, requires substantially less time than a review or audit engagement because fewer procedures are required. Various states allow a CPA to perform a compilation without having a Peer Review for their firm. Unfortunately there is a wide variance in the quality of the financial statements and accountant’s work papers for compilation engagements since firms that have not followed the Peer Review quality standards generally have not developed a system of quality similar to those firms that follow the standards included in the Peer Review membership program of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

    Compilation standards do not require the accountant to perform any procedures to verify or corroborate the financial statement information provided by the Association’s management. However, the accountant must address significant questions that arise in the course of the compilation engagement. If the accountant has reason to believe the information supplied by the Association’s management is inaccurate, incomplete or otherwise unsatisfactory, the accountant is required to obtain revised or corrected information before reporting on the financial statements. The AICPA compilation standards require the accountant to possess an adequate level of knowledge about the accounting principles and practices of the Community Association industry and have a general knowledge about the nature of the Association’s business. The accountant is required to read the compiled financial statements and consider whether they are in appropriate form and free from obvious material errors. Because of the limited scope of compilation procedures, the standard Compilation report disclaims any degree of assurance on the financial statements. The report also states that the accountant has “not audited or reviewed the financial statements and accordingly, does not express an opinion or provide any assurance about whether the financial statements are in accordance with the applicable reporting framework.”

    At a minimum, a compilation engagement with the accompanying accountant’s report is required anytime an external CPA is associated with the financial statements of the Association.


    A review engagement requires the limited procedures included in a compilation engagement as well as other procedures that enable the accountant to provide limited assurance on the financial statements. These additional requirements are inquiries of the association’s management and analytical procedures. Inquiries are typically directed to knowledgeable persons having responsibility for financial and accounting matters. Please note the questions are being asked of the client’s management and accountants without outside verification. Accountants exercise their professional judgment to determine the extent of inquiries that are needed. Although specific inquiries are tailored for each Association, the inquiries should, at a minimum, relate to: the accounting practices and principles used by the organization; the procedures for recording and accumulating financial information; and the actions taken at meetings of the Board.

    Analytical procedures include:

    • Comparison of current year financial statements with the budget and prior year’s statements
    • Study of the financial statements to identify items or relationships between items that do not conform to expectations based on earlier reports or budget or other information
    • Review and consideration of adjustments made to the financial statements of prior years.

    The purpose of analytical procedures is to identify account balances or relationships that appear unusual so that additional inquiries or review of financial data can be made to determine the cause of the unexpected results. Based on these inquiries adjustments to the financial statements may be necessary.

    Because of the inquiry and analytical procedures included in a review engagement accountants are able to express limited assurance on the Association’s financial statements. Remember in the compilation report the accountant disclaims any assurance on the association’s financial statements. The standard Accountant’s Review Report states that a review is substantially less in scope than an audit, the objective of which is the expression of an opinion regarding the financial statements as a whole and that, accordingly, the accountant does not express such an opinion. However, a review report does state that “we are not aware of any materials modifications that should be made to the financial statements.”


    An audit engagement provides the highest level of assurance on the Association’s financial statements, because many important audit procedures are performed. Some of the more important auditing procedures are:

    • Consideration and evaluation of the internal control system of the Association, which may include testing the effectiveness of the system
    • Tests of the underlying documentation to support the account balances
    • Outside confirmation of bank and investment accounts, loans, insurance coverage and legal status.

    In addition, the auditor is specifically  required to obtain reasonable assurance that the financial statements are not materially misstated due to fraud. In a compilation or review engagement the accountant is not required to document any assessment of fraud risk, nor are they required to consider fraud or search for fraud in the course of the engagement. However, in a compilation or review the accountant is required to report any significant deficiencies in internal control or fraud that comes to their attention. The possibility of this happening is less likely in a review and even less in a compilation since the procedures are less comprehensive in these levels of service. The audit report reflects a higher level of assurance based on the more extensive procedures performed. The standard audit report states, “In our opinion, the financial statements referred to above prevent fairly, in all materials respects, the financial position of your association as of December 31, 20xx and the results of its operations and cash flows for the year then ended in conformity with accounting principles generally accepted in the U.S.



    When special circumstances are present it is often more beneficial to have an Agreed Upon Procedures engagement performed. This type of engagement is often performed when there is either a suspected fraud or a specific issues(s) that the association is trying to address. It is a way to efficiently assist in obtaining evidence and minimize cost by focusing only on those areas of concern to the board. For example, perhaps the association wants to address a garage employee that was suspected of theft, or reconcile special assessment billing. In these cases the procedures to be performed would be designed to test the areas of concern in order to gather any relevant evidence.


    For calendar year-end Associations, (December 31st), the corporate tax returns will be due on March 15th. The Illinois tax returns are due on the same day. The IRS allows you to extend the filing of the tax return to September 15th and Illinois allows the extension to October 15th of 2019. The extension does NOT grant you any additional time to pay the taxes. Fortunately with the low interest rates offered on investments it is more the rarity that an Association owes taxes. Most condominiums, townhomes and homeowner associations can decide which federal form to file each year, the regular corporate tax return, (1120) or the homeowners association tax return, (1120-H). If they are a cooperative they should be filing the 1120-C. The decision to file the 1120 versus the 1120-H is based on a number of factors. If they owe tax the 1120 begins at the 15% rate versus the 1120-H which has a flat rate of 30%. Since most Associations do not pay income taxes, we usually recommend the filing of the 1120- H. It is much safer to file this form with the IRS. Filing the 1120 has numerous issues to deal with that upon IRS audit can trigger the assessment of a large amount of tax. One Association in the Southwest was told that they had painting and other non-capital items going through the reserve fund and that the entire reserve was to be considered taxable. The IRS has attacked the Reserve accumulation in a variety of ways for various Associations across the US. The bottom line is that generally speaking the 1120-H is a better form to file if there is no tax due.


    There are various levels of service that may fit the needs of the various associations. Each association is unique and may have substantially different expectations of what they are trying to accomplish with the CPA firm they select. There are even different levels of CPAs and CPA firms: those that are Peer Reviewed and those that choose not to be Peer Reviewed. Some CPA firms specialize in Community Associations because they love them while others see Community Associations only as a means to supplement their revenue. Whatever your Association’s circumstances, we hope you choose a CPA that is best suited for you based on your specific needs and level of service that you deem appropriate.

  • November 27, 2018 2:12 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By Steve Silberman 

    As a CPA, one of the most frequently asked questions I get from Board members is: Are we a not-for-profit corporation and if we are, do we have to file an income tax return?

    First of all, most associations are usually incorporated as not-for-profit corporations by the developer. If this did not happen to your association, I recommend hiring an attorney to incorporate your association as a not-for-profit corporation, even though you could go to the Secretary of State's website yourself to incorporate. Once incorporated, you must remember that each year your association has to file an annual report with the Illinois Secretary of State and pay an annual fee in order to stay incorporated.

    Residential condominiums, townhomes, and homeowners' associations are not-for-profit corporations that generally do not qualify for Federal income tax-exempt status. Residential associations may be taxed under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 277 or may elect to be taxed under IRC Section 528. Under IRC Section 277, associations file Federal Form 1120 and under IRC Section 528, associations file Federal Form 1120-H. An association can decide annually which form it would like to file. So let's discuss which form is right for your association and the differences between each form.


    Federal Form 1120-H was developed so that associations would not be taxed for carrying out its main function of managing and maintaining the common elements. Commercial condominium associations cannot file Federal Form 1120-H. IRC Section 528 states that income and expenses must be allocated between exempt function activities and nonexempt function activities. Associations are only taxed on its net non-exempt function income at a Federal tax rate of 30%. (Timeshare Associations are taxed at a Federal tax rate of 32%). So what is exempt and non-exempt function income?

    Exempt Function Income is:

    Operating income received as assessments from owners of condominium, townhome or HOAs. They also can be assessments received from developers on unsold units or lots. These assessments must be assessed ratably to be exempt function income.

    Non-exempt Function Income (or taxable income) is:

    1) Income from non-association property - commercial operations and interest and dividends. 2) Income from non-members for use of association property. 3) User charges to association members for special services unless the user charge is assessed once in a twelve month period and the benefit lasts for the entire 12 month period. An example of a user charge is laundry income.

    The advantages of Federal Form 1120-H are as follows:

    1. Associations are not taxed on exempt function income.

    2. The tax form is a one page form, with supplementary schedules, so it costs less to prepare.

    3. The form has less risk than Federal Form 1120. There are four tests that have to be met to file Federal Form 1120-H, but most residential associations will qualify.

    4. Fund accounting is not required since capital or reserve assessments are not taxed.

    5. No election forms are required like on Federal Form 1120.

    6. As long as you keep filing Federal Form 1120-H, no estimated taxes are required.


    The key advantage of Federal Form 1120 is that an association could pay tax at a lower rate than Federal Form 1120-H. Income tax rates start out at 15% on the first $50,000, however, the risk of compliance is far greater since an association must follow certain required procedures. Also, since the form is much longer and more complex it costs more to prepare than Federal Form 1120-H.

    IRC Section 277 states that income for Federal Form 1120 should be allocated between membership and nonmembership income. An association can be taxed on both if there is net income, however, an association can make an annual election to defer net membership income.

    Revenue Ruling 70-604 allows associations to defer net membership income for one year but if the association has net membership income in the next year then the association would have to pay tax in the next year on the deferred income. An association can also make an election under Revenue Ruling 70-604 to refund net membership income, but in my 30+ plus years of working with associations, I have never seen an association refund money. A question that I get asked about all the time is: Can our association transfer excess net membership income to reserves and then not have to pay taxes on this excess? The answer is NO if you are filing Federal Form 1120.

    IRC Section 118 states that an association cannot transfer excess net membership income to reserves to avoid paying taxes since you cannot re-characterize what the assessments were for originally. In order for Revenue Ruling 70-604 to be valid, the election has to be made annually by all members (usually at the annual meeting) and it should preferably be made before the end of the year. The dollar amount does not have to be specified.

    Capital contributions (reserve assessments) will be treated as non-taxable on Federal Form 1120 if certain guidelines are followed:

    1. The purpose of the assessment must be capital in nature. The reserve study supports the purpose of the capital assessment. However, painting, even if it was included in your reserve study, is an operating assessment, not a capital assessment.

    2. Members must have advance notice. Distributing copies of the budget to the members is considered advance notice.

    3. The assessment must be accounted for as a capital contribution and held for that purpose. The books and records, along with the budget should segregate operating and reserve (capital) activities. Therefore, the association should use fund accounting.

    4. Reserve (capital) assessments should be deposited into a separate account and reserve expenditures should be paid out of this separate account. An association can pay for capital expenditures out of the operating fund account as long as the reserve account reimburses the operating account in a relatively short period of time.

    Now that you have a brief understanding of the two forms, you might be wondering which form should your association be using? This is a hard question to answer unless your CPA knows the facts and issues associated with your association.

    Usually if your association has little interest income and no (or minimal) user fees you will file Federal Form 1120-H. As interest income grows, your association should look at filing Federal Form 1120 as an alternative. If your association has minimal interest income, but you have a net loss from your net membership (for example due to a painting project) you may want to file Federal Form 1120 since that loss gets carried forward. If your association files Federal Form 1120 because of the large amount of non-membership income, you want to make sure that you do tax planning ahead of time to minimize your net membership income.

    You now should have a better understanding about the different types of Federal income tax returns and which Federal income tax return is right for your association.

  • October 26, 2018 9:24 AM | Talia Lionetti

    On Wednesday, October 3, 2018, Mark Rosenbaum of Fischel and Kahn Law Firm gave a presentation on the topic of Getting Along on a Board (Without Necessarily Going Along) at The Book Market at Hangar One at the Glen, Glenview, Illinois. The host, Barbara’s Book, provided a splendid venue for the presentation.

    The seminar was well attended with a topic that has perplexed many Board member volunteers as well as unit owners attending Board meetings.

    Mark Rosenbaum, in a comfortable arm chair manner, discussed the mechanics of a Board Meeting and the requirements of a Board Meeting in regards to Illinois Condo Law. He introduced the “gadfly” personality. Who is that? A gadfly is a unit owner who is not on the Board and who insists on complaining about what the Board does or does not do. The personality of the gadfly was explored; the complainer in the audience; one who complains and follows up and the gadfly who complains and never follows up. The Board has to deal with all unit owner personalities and tips were given how to deal with this “gadfly”. The speaker continued with the makeup of the Board. The harmonious Board and the fractured Board and how they affect the functioning or non-functioning of the Board progress and success.

    Various stereotypes of Board members were analyzed. They are the project manager, the gadfly, the controller, the reluctant warrior and the regular. All aspects of these types were explored.

    The final segment was why some boards cannot make any progress. What impedes them? Disputes about money, esthetics, big picture impasse, small picture impasse and a bad blend of temperaments all contribute to a non-performing Board. Mark Rosenbaum was open to questions from the audience and graciously gave real life situations and solutions to common Board interpersonal relationship struggles and road blocks that happen during the Board interactions. This includes Board meetings, neighborhood interaction and time on task. The attendees appreciated Mark’s calm manner and his professional expertise in the Condo world. 

    The ACTHA Board of Directors thanks Mark Rosenbaum and looks forward to inviting him to speak at future seminars.

  • October 23, 2018 2:22 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: Kristofer Kasten



    19 South LaSalle Street, Suite 303, Chicago, IL 60603

    T: 312.419.4000 - F: 312.419.4008 -

    By now, most, if not all, community association managers and board members, as well as attentive owners, of condominium and common interest community associations are aware that there is a January 1, 2019 deadline to adopt a complaint resolution policy under the Illinois Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act (the “Ombudsperson Act”). Although that deadline is quickly approaching, it does not mean that “the sky is falling” or that associations must hastily adopt a one-size-fits all form policy. Let’s all just take a deep breath and give some thought to the matter to understand what is required and what best suits each individual association.

    Many associations may already have procedures under their declaration, bylaws, or rules and regulations pursuant to which owners may file complaints about other owners. Those procedures are typically part of the association’s enforcement policy because they relate to the association addressing an owner’s alleged violation of the declaration, bylaws, or rules and regulations. The complaint resolution policy under the Ombudsperson Act is different than those procedures because it deals with an owner’s complaint about the association, not other owners.

    To assist associations in understanding what is required of them, we provide the following questions and answers:

    Q: Is my association required to comply?

    A: If your association is a condominium or a non-exempt common interest community, then your association must adopt a complaint resolution policy.

    An exempt common interest community association is one that is exempt from the provisions of the Illinois Common Interest Community Association Act (the “CICAA”); specifically, such association has either (a) 10 units or less or (b) annual budgeted assessments of $100,000 or less, unless that association voluntarily elects to be covered by the CICAA.

    Q: What must the policy include?

    A: Section 35 of the Ombudsperson Act provides that the “policy must include: (1) a sample form on which a unit owner may make a complaint to the association; (2) a description ofthe process by which complaints shall be delivered to the association; (3) the association’s timeline and manner of making final determinations in response to a unit owner’s complaint; and (4) a requirement that the final determination made by the association in response to a unit owner’s complaint be: (i) made in writing; (ii) made within 180 days after the association received the unit owner’s original complaint; and(iii) marked clearly and conspicuously as “final”.”

    Note that the Ombudsperson has published a sample policy and complaint form on itswebsite, which can be found under the “Publications” tab. The website URL is:

    Q: Is the policy published on the Ombudsperson’s website mandatory?

    A: No. The Ombudsperson has published a sample policy that includes the basic requirements under the Ombudsperson Act, as well as additional provisions for consideration. An association may (1) use the sample policy as published or (2) may modify it for their particular association or (3) use their own existing policy (typically a rules enforcement policy) as long as it generally complies with the Ombudsperson Act and provides for a final determination within 180 days that is marked “final”.

    Q: Is the complaint form published on the Ombudsperson’s website mandatory?

    A: No. Similar to the policy, the complaint form is a sample that the association may use, (either as published or modified for their particular association) or the association can modify/adapt its existing enforcement policy to include the required elements.

    Q: Can the board adopt the policy without a unit owner vote?

    A: If the policy only establishes a procedure pursuant to which owners can submit complaints about the association to the association, without the imposition of any type of sanction or adverse consequence (such as monetary fines or denial of privileges) to any party, then the board can adopt the policy via a board resolution. In such a situation, no meeting of the unit owners would be required to discuss the policy before the board can adopt it by resolution. However, the board must still adopt the resolution at a duly noticed open board meeting at which a quorum is present. Also, the board must still provide notice of the policy to all owners. 

    If the policy goes further than simply establishing a procedure for making complaints to the association and also provides for the imposition of some type of sanction or adverse consequence against any party, then the policy is more akin to a rule and the procedure for adopting rules should be followed. In either case, the board can adopt the policy without a unit owner vote.

    Q: What happens if the association does not adopt the policy by January 1, 2019?

    A: The Ombudsperson Act does not provide for any specific consequence or penalty if the policy is not adopted by the prescribed deadline.

    That said, boards should be mindful that they are required under Illinois law to strictly comply with their respective governing statutes. Section 35 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act incorporates the Ombudsperson Act by reference. Section 1-90 of CICAA does the same. Accordingly, the association should adopt the policy regardless of whether or not there are consequences for not doing so.

    If your association has not already done so, it must adopt a complaint resolution policy by January 1, 2019 because that what the law requires. However, there is no need to freak out about it. Should you have any questions about what your association should do to comply, please contact us and we will assist you in meeting the January 1, 2019 deadline.

    This document has been prepared by Michael C. Kim & Associates for informational purposes only. Michael C. Kim & Associates is a law firm representing community associations. Download a PDF of the article here. Visit us at

  • October 09, 2018 1:12 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: Sal Sciacca of Chicago Property Services

    Now more than ever, associations must spend money wisely and plan ahead to ensure that their reserves are properly funded. Proper reserve funding will allow the board of directors to properly maintain the association and maximize the real estate values of the owners.

    Duties and Obligations of Board Members

    One of the fundamental obligations of board members is to maintain the common elements. In fact it is their fiduciary duty to maintain the common elements as stated in the law. The common elements consist of physical characteristics that involve regular maintenance as well as capital replacement. The focus of this article is on capital items. Which capital items should be replaced and when should they be replaced are the most important questions to ask. It is not a question of whether the items should be replaced. All capital items have a finite life expectancy. 

    Reserve Studies are Recommended

    One of the questions that board members should ask is who determines what are the capital items, how long will they last and how much will it cost to replace the times. To answer those questions, associations should ideally hire a company that specializes in reserve studies. The reserve study is a document generated by experts that incorporates the life expectancy of all capital items over the span of 30 years into a detailed report. The report will indicate what items need to be replaced, when they need to be replaced, and how much it will cost to replace them. It will also detail how much the association will need to save to fund the capital item replacements on an annual basis. In principle, this sounds like a very sound idea. A reserve study is generally at least $3,000 for a 30 unit community association to over $10,000 for a larger community. replacement.

    Reserve studies are recommended

    Practically speaking, many associations cannot afford to pay for a reserve study.  In Illinois, there are over 40,000 communities and about 30,000 are under 25 units. Most of the associations under 25 units probably don’t have the funding to afford a reserve study. In addition, there are associations that have paid for reserve studies and have not followed the recommended plans. Certainly, this is not recommended but it is the reality for many associations based on their financial constraints.

    5 Year Capital Plans are Essential

    Regardless of whether an association has a current reserve study or not, it makes the most financial sense that ALL associations large or small, well funded or underfunded, have a 5 year capital plan. The capital plan needs to incorporate the reserve study data if available and create a road map of exactly what capital items will be addressed during which calendar year.

    Capital Planning Saves Money

    Planning ahead and proactively addressing capital projects actually saves money. This is especially applicable to exterior facade, masonry and tuck pointing issues. Simple masonry issues can easily escalate into major expenditures. Costs associated with exterior masonry issues typically raise exponentially and not linearly. This means that the longer associations hold off with repairs, the more costly the repairs become. It is cheaper to make the capital improvements sooner than later. Given this fact, the best approach for a board is to have a capital plan and to plan ahead. It is always best to plan long term and to keep the homeowners informed of expenditures especially larger ones. As a result, it is quite important for the board of directors to create and maintain a 5 year capital plan.

    Capital Planning Cycle

    The capital plan is a guide and a road map detailing exactly what capital items will be addressed over the next 5 years. The capital planning process should start in the spring and finish up with the plan that the board will present to the homeowners at the budget approval meeting which is typically held in October or November of each year. Ideally there is a capital committee that reviews the capital plan every year and submits the recommendation to the board each year in September. This allows the board to incorporate the capital planning process into the operational budget planning process that typically starts in September. Once the operating budget and capital plan is approved, the cycle starts all over again in the spring. It is an ongoing process that continues on through the life of the association.

    Proactive Planning or Deferred Planning

    It is best when associations plan ahead and pre-fund the reserves for capital projects. But what happens when associations don’t plan ahead? The answer is simple. It costs MORE money. The project costs are higher and the board is often forced to pass special assessments and raise more through bank loans. In addition, there is typically more frustration among the homeowners as the amount the homeowners are asked to pay is often larger than the regular monthly assessment amount. It is much cheaper to raise regular assessments and save over time and have the funds necessary for capital projects versus raising funds for capital projects as necessary. The following sections discuss the most common capital funding scenarios. 

    Funding Options – Reserves Only

    In this best case scenario, the association has planned ahead and has built up the reserves sufficiently over the years and has enough to pay for the capital projects as necessary per the capital plan. This is the ideal situation. This means that the assessment levels are sufficient to build long term reserves. The association can move forward with the capital project at any time in this scenario and does not have to wait to collect additional funds. This scenario is the least stressful to the association and to the homeowners.

    Funding Options – Reserves and Special Assessments

    In this scenario, the association can only partially fund the capital project from reserves and it is necessary to raise additional funds through a special assessment to fully fund the capital project. In this scenario, the association will need to wait until the special assessment funds are collected before proceeding with the project. This scenario would only apply in cases where there is low urgency in the project completion timeline.

    Funding Options - Special Assessments Only

    In this scenario, the association is severely underfunded and must raise funds completely through a special assessment. This is a viable option only if the project is not urgent in nature and can wait until the special assessment funds are collected. This scenario is the least common and would only apply in cases where there is low urgency in the project completion timeline.

    Funding Options – Special Assessments & Bank Loans

    In this scenario, which is the least desirable scenario, the association is seriously underfunded and urgently needs funds to complete a capital project. This can be attributed to an unexpected event that has created the need to complete a capital project. Other scenarios include poor planning, deferment of capital projects, and/or under funding of the reserves. There are banks that do lend to community associations which allow associations to access the capital necessary to complete the capital projects in this scenario. In this case, the association applies for a bank loan and at the same time will need to pass a special assessment to cover the cost of the project. The bank loan will allow the association to take on the project fairly quickly as a loan approval usually takes about 6 weeks to complete. Once the loan is approved, the association has the funding available to take on the project. The payback period of the loan is usually over 3 to 5 years. The special assessment is also usually drawn out over the same period of time. This is the most expensive scenario due to borrowing money and it creates the most stress on the association and homeowners.

    Communication is Key

    In the end, the best approach is to communicate information to owners on a regular basis. By communicating the information, they will know the issues and not be surprised to hear about upcoming capital improvement projects. In addition, if additional funds are needed, the owners will not be surprised by the need to pass a special assessment or obtain a bank loan. The way to do this is by holding regular quarterly board meetings that are officially noticed and distributing meeting minutes to all the homeowners so that information is shared to those who were not able to attend the board meetings.


    In summary, associations are encouraged to plan ahead especially regarding capital expenditures. These are the greatest expenditures that associations will undertake. As a result, it is advised that an association obtain a reserve study if financially affordable and to incorporate this information into a 5 year capital plan. Each year, the association should revise the 5 year plan and every 3-5 years the association should get an update to their reserve study. This proactive approach will result in the lowest amount of operating costs for the association Conversely, associations that wait until the last minute to make capital repairs will often times need to pass special assessments, obtain bank loans, spend greater amounts of money to complete the projects and create the greatest stress and strain on the association and homeowners.

    Chicago Property Services

    3634 W. Wrightwood, Chicago 60647 - 773-455-0107

  • September 19, 2018 12:41 PM | Talia Lionetti

    There were over 30 attendees at the Thursday, September 13, 2018 Deerfield Library Seminar, "How to Deal with Difficult People". 

    Presenting the topic, “How to Deal With Difficult People” was Jim Stoller,  President of the Building Group, Jim presented strategies on how to manage conflict between the Board members and the unit owners. He presented a packet of resource materials that provided “take home strategies” that will be useful long after this seminar ended.

    Some techniques to encourage a positive and productive environment included: 1) Having specific goals timetables and priorities 2) Preventing discussions from becoming personal; 3) Distributing accurate information to all board members and unit owners, 4) Setting up fact finding committees to obtain information 5) Using independent experts to provide technical information.

    He gave tips on how to reduce conflict at the Board Meetings with communication with unit owners being the key component. If Boards create and consistently enforce rules and regulations, a board meeting atmosphere of fairness and predictability occurs. If Boards respect their managers, the unit owners see a team effort at Board meetings and harmony at the meetings exist. Involving the unit owners and providing an inviting atmosphere, the unit owners are prone to attend where they feel welcome. A win win situation is inevitable.

    When conflict does arise, Jim Stoller provided ways to approach a conflict situation. He stated that knowing the ways people approach a disagreement will assist you to choose the best tactics for resolving conflict. These ways were: 1) Direct aggression 2) Collaborative 3) Compromising 4) Accommodating 5) Avoiding .

    The tips that he stated for resolving the Conflict and Handling Difficult People were:

    • Be Proactive
    • Listen and Stay Calm
    • Encourage the people involved to share their perspective
    • Discuss possible solutions
    • Be empathetic

    The attendees had a chance to share their Board experiences and get tailor made answers to their questions. Boards and unit owners have to take an objective look at all parties’ behavior and seek common ground for a harmonious outcome which will be beneficial for all parties involved.

    This task involves time and effort to analyze, diffuse heated discussions, using techniques as Jim Stoller advocated.

    The ACHA Board of Directors are grateful for the expertise in the subject matter Jim Stoller provided.

  • September 17, 2018 12:39 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: David Hartwell

    Updated By: Lauren Peddinghaus
    Haus Financial Services, LLC. 

    Question: Last fall our condo board approved the association’s annual budget, which included a special assessment to cover expenses for a painting project.  At that time the board was still reviewing bids and, for budget purposes, included the higher-end bid of $120K and special assessment model of $70K in the budget.  (The rest of the project was being funded through reserves). 

    Since the time the budget was approved, the board ultimately accepted a lower bid of $70K and special assessment model of $45K.

    Is it appropriate to amend the budget with the new figures?  What are the ramifications of changing the budget once it’s approved?

    Answer: If a budget contains a line item for a capital improvement project to be started in that year, then a special assessment would not be necessary.  However, if the board sought funding for a project that was not previously budgeted for, then a special assessment would be necessary and must be passed consistent with Section 18(a)(8) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act (“Act”). 

    If the cost of the painting project was part of the budget, then theoretically under this set of facts, there would exist an operating surplus at the end of the year due to the significant disparity of the lower project cost.  If this occurs, the board should then consult the declaration to determine how operating budget surpluses are to be addressed for that association. 

    Depending upon the fiscal year of the association, I would likely recommend that the board consider amending its budget to reflect the actual cost of the painting project. The board should also consult with its accountant during this process.  Alternatively, if the painting project is being funded from a special assessment, the board should first look to the special assessment resolution to determine if it only specified the painting project or also addressed other maintenance, repair and replacement of common elements. If the latter is true, the additional sums collected could be used for other contemplated projects and the board would need to vote on the additional expenditures at an open meeting; otherwise, the special assessment should be amended to reflect the actual cost of the project.  The Act allows owners to petition for a vote on any adopted or special assessment if it would result in the sum of all assessments payable in the current year exceeding 115% of the total of all assessments payable in the prior year. When calculating the threshold, the amount need only exceed 115% of all assessments issued in the prior year. 

    For example, If an association had a $98,000 annual budget in 2017 as well as a $5,000 special assessment, the total of the annual assessments would be $103,000 for 2017. If the 2018 annual budget is $100,000 and a $16,000 special is considered, the special would have to exceed $18,450 in order to meet the threshold (115% of the $103, 000 total assessed in 2017). 

    Lastly, the board could consider levying the original special assessment thereby avoiding the need to draw on reserves. As a practical matter, every board should act consistent with its governing documents and should act in the best interests of all of its owners. In my experience, most owners want to see the board acting in a fiscally responsible manner, especially when it pertains to a special assessment.

    As set forth in 18(a)(6) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act, the board must send out the new amended budget at least 25 days prior to the date of the meeting at which the board intends on approving it. 

  • September 12, 2018 12:36 PM | Talia Lionetti

    By: Maya Ziv-El of Keough & Moody, P.C. 

    Common Elements-What are they and why should they be maintained? 

    One of the primary responsibilities of a Board of Directors is maintaining the common elements. Every Association defines a common element a little differently, but generally speaking, it is any part of the Association that is beyond the unit itself and not otherwise defined as a limited common element. Common elements can include roofs, exterior walls, landscape, utility areas, hallways, among other items. 

    Maintaining the common elements is important on many levels. It is important at minimum to maintain the property value, and may even increase the resale value of your unit. It is also important to maintain the aesthetics of the property as well as the integrity and safety of the structure. If common elements are not being maintained properly, not only does the Association suffer through the disrepair, but the situation may lead to loss of revenue of assessments, costly lawsuits, and an unhappy community overall. 

    The Costs of Failure to Maintain the Common Elements 

    In June of 2012, the Illinois Appellate Court held that in a lawsuit to collect common expenses from an owner (through seeking an order for possession,) the owner could raise as a defense to not paying assessments the issue of the Association’s failure to maintain common elements. Spanish Court Two Condominium Ass’n v. Carlson, No. 2-11-0473 (Ill. App. Ct., June 27, 2012). In practical terms, this means that in certain instances an owner can lawfully withhold assessments if the Association is not maintaining the common elements. This recent law makes it more important than ever for an Association to make maintenance of the common elements a top priority. 

    Besides the potential for lost assessment income, a Board’s failure to maintain common elements can also open up the Association to various forms of liability. For example, a failure could result in damage to an Owner’s unit, or maybe even cause injury to an owner because of unsafe conditions. Depending on the situation, the Association may find itself in court defending against claims for negligence, injury, breach of fiduciary duty, etc. 

    An Association may also have to defend against a lawsuit for breach of contract. Besides being outlined in the Illinois Condominium Property Act, the duty to maintain common elements is also usually found in the Association’s governing documents. Therefore, an owner may attempt to bring an action against the Association for breaching the governing documents (the “contract”) by failing to maintain the common elements. 

    So What Should We Do? 

    There are no winners when common elements are not properly maintained. The owners can suffer because of maintenance issues that may affect individual units and lost value of their units. Associations suffer collectively because of the costly repercussions of owners withholding assessments, defending expensive lawsuits, risking unsafe structures, and overall disgruntled members. 

    A concerned member can start by attending a board meeting, contacting the manager, or even running for a board position. An Association should begin by ensuring that its management company has the knowledge and foresight to keep the property at its best. 

    *Also contributing Rosario Spaccaferro of Keough & Moody, P.C., 1250 E. Diehl Rd., Naperville 60563 630-245-5068 ^ 

  • August 28, 2018 2:35 PM | Talia Lionetti

    An Interview with Oak Grove Condominiums

    ACTHA: Give a brief description of your subdivision, location, size, type, method of governance, self-managed or Management Company?

    We are a condominium complex in Midlothian, IL. about 30 miles south of Chicago. We have 12 buildings with 144 units total. We are self-managed.

    ACTHA: Give a description of your Association Board; number of directors, master, sub-association.

    We have 5 Board members no master or sub-association.

    ACTHA: What does your Board do that makes your Association function smoothly? Name three factors.

    Our Board runs smoothly because all of the board members want to make our complex a great place to live. Even if there may be a difference of opinion everyone is respectful and hears out any ideas. We have set meetings 4 times a year already scheduled by our November voter’s meeting, so all board members are aware of the date well in advance. The board has the meeting at a local pizza place on half price day, so it is economical and provides a more relaxed environment to hold meetings over dinner.

    ACTHA: What have you implemented at your Board Meetings that works well during Homeowner Sessions?

    For a long time, our Board meetings had a lot of interruptions and questions while the Board was discussing business. Once we were all on board with reminding owners this is a meeting for the Board to discuss business and we are very happy to take questions after the meeting we had a much smoother meeting. Once owners knew we wanted to hear what they had to say, and we would answer questions at the end everyone was happy with that. We always have a table set up as you walk in to sign in the meeting, we have last meeting’s minutes and the nights agenda set out. We also found serving pizza during the board meeting rather then after gave the owners something to do while they listened to Board discussions. The Board not only answers any owner questions, but 2 or 3 Board members usually stay after most people have left and chat with owners still there to get a feel of how they things are going.

    ACTHA: What are your most recent accomplishments? Projects for example.

    Our Board has been busy! In the last few years we have put on 96 new balconies. We have 10 new roofs and gutters with the last two roofs going on this fall. We had to repair a huge sink hole between two of our buildings that cost as much as 3 or 4 roofs! We are also FHA approved and that was a lot of work.

    ACTHA: What are your challenges in your community you as a Board deal with?

    Our biggest challenge right now is the age of our buildings. They were built in 1974 and converted to condominiums in 1981. We have the best maintenance person and without him, it would be very difficult to keep up with repairs. We worked very hard the last few years to get the bones of the buildings sound, now we are taking the piping repairs and age-related problems as they come up. The challenges in the community mostly stem from trying to get people that do not live in the complex to stay off the property. While we want to be good neighbors, we have a lot of people in the community walking through our property to get to businesses on the other side of us. They cut through our property and throw trash and break our fence regularly.  Dog owners on and off the property are a big issue also. We have many dog owners that do not clean up after their dogs and cause a mess.

    ACTHA: What do you do for community “buy in”?

    We do have a “buy in”. We call it a Capital Contribution and it has been in effect since 1993. We explain to the buys that they have a new balcony and new roof that all owners have paid for and they will have the benefit of all the improvements made.

    ACTHA: Tell us about the most rewarding part of your volunteer run.

    I think in talking to Board members the most rewarding part of the job is keeping our complex a wonderful place to live and being involved in how that gets done.

    ACTHA: What advice would you give new Board members?

    To a new Board member, I would be honest and tell them it’s a lot of work for which many homeowners are not very grateful. The upside is they are helping maintain the place they live and have a vested interest in seeing do well. Their opinion matters! Read the By-Laws and Rules & Regulations and be familiar with them. If you listen to an owner and they feel heard that is a great start on resolving an issue.

    ACTHA: Who are your most valuable resources? Attorney, Manager, Accountant, Management Company, Community officials, Police, Fire Depts.

    Our most valuable resources are many. Our maintenance person can do just about anything. Our attorneys Kovitz, Shifrin & Nesbit always keep us on the right path, we are in contact with them a lot. We have a great accountant that we depend on for Quarterly statements and tax work.

    ACTHA: How do you foster harmonious Board relations?

    I really believe when someone serves on the Board it is to keep our community a great place to live and protect their investment along with all the other owners’ investments. When everyone has the same goal in mind it makes it easier to work as a team. We all have different opinions and ways to do things, but with the same goal.

  • August 28, 2018 10:40 AM | Talia Lionetti

    Adrienne Levatino was appointed by Kreg Allison , the Director of the Division of Real Estate for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, as the Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson as of January 1, 2017.

    The mission of the CCIC Ombudsperson is to provide information to unit owners, condominium and common interest community associations and their respective boards in order that they all may better understand their rights and obligations under the Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act.

    The Role of the Ombudsperson is under the Division of Real Estate for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation .

    What does the CCIC Ombudsperson do?

    The role is to educate unit owners , associations, and their respective boards. There are two publications available for this purpose provided on the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website.

    The other role is to respond to relevant inquiries by providing educational materials and directing citizens to relevant resources.

    What does the CCIC Ombudsperson not do?

    The Ombudsperson does not provide legal advice or advocate services; The Ombudsperson does not enforce any laws to regulations, including the regulation of registration of profession, associations, companies, or people. The Ombudsperson does not hear, mediate, or resolve issues between unit owners and associations, complaints of discrimination, complaints about community association managers also known as CAMS.

    What has been happening ?

    During the period beginning January 1, 2017 and ending June 11, 2018, the Ombudsperson received 140 written inquiries. Of the persons submitting inquiries, 118 provided his or her address and 136 identified their “status” (attorney, board member, unit owner or “other”). The vast majority of those submitting inquiries (83%) were unit owners, while only 13 (approximately 9%) were individuals who identified themselves as board members. Among those who submitted written inquiries, only 118 (84%) identified the municipality within which they resided. Of these, 39 (33%) lived in an association within the City of Chicago.

    The Ombudsperson was able to identify a specific subject for 128 inquiries. More than onethird of the inquiries raised governance issues—whether a board provided adequate notice of meetings, whether the board improperly conducted business in closed session and other claimed instances of lack of adherence to the Condominium Property Act or an association’s governance documents, for instance. Ten percent of the inquiries, most of which were received shortly following the effective date of the Act, questioned whether or when their association needed to have a written complaint process or whether or when associations were required to register with the Department. The Ombudsperson received nine inquiries concerning deconversion, nine questions relating to the imposition or collection of regular or special assessments, eight inquiries regarding the maintenance or availability of association records and eight questions related to the adoption or enforcement of rules.

    The Ombudsperson role is not a full-time position and the Ombudsperson also serves as the Associate General Counsel in the Department’s Division of Real Estate. The Ombudspersonhas no additional staff. Approximately thirty-five percent of her time is devoted to serving as Ombudsperson.

    The ombudsperson Adrienne M .Levatino’s office is located at 100 West Randolph, 9th floor, Chicago, Ilinois, 6060.1

    The website is You may reach her at : 1 (888) 473-4858. 

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