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  • January 09, 2019 10:46 AM | Deleted user

    Courtesy of:

    The Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act became effective on January 1, 2017. Generally, the purpose of this Act is to create a State of Illinois-operated mechanism to assist in resolving certain disputes within condominium and community associations.

    It is important to recognize that certain tasks must be accomplished before the January 1, 2019 deadline.

    On January 1, 2019, each association is required to adopt a written policy for resolving complaints made by unit owners. The policy must include:

    • A sample form upon which a unit owner may make a complaint
    • A description of the process by which complaints shall be delivered to the Association
    • The Association’s timeline and manner of making final determinations in response to the unit owner’s complaint as well as the form for such determinations

    This is a limited summary of the new Ombudsperson Act and each condominium and common interest community association should become familiar with the full version of this new law.

    KSN can prepare documentation that complies with the requirements of this Act and can assist Associations with the procedural steps necessary to adopt the required policy by January 1, 2019.

    Please contact our law firm at 847-537-0500 or visit

    About the Office of the Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson

    On January 1, 2017, Adrienne Levatino was named the Illinois Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson by Kreg Allison, the Director of the Division of Real Estate for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. The Ombursperson’s website:

    The website indicates that the Ombudsperson’s goals are to:

    • Educate unit owners, associations and their respective boards
    • Publish information useful to unit owners, associations and their respective boards
    • Respond to relevant inquiries by providing educational materials and directing citizens to relevant resources

    The website also indicates that the Ombudsperson’s does not:

    • Provide legal advice or advocacy services
    • Enforce any laws or regulations, including the regulation or registration of: Professions, Associations, Companies, People Hear, mediate or resolve: Issues between unit owners and associations, Complaints of discrimination, Complaints about Community Association Managers (“CAMs”)

    This article is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By reading this article you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the article author. This article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state. © 2018 Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, A Professional Corporation.

    Click here to view the original article. 

  • January 09, 2019 10:24 AM | Deleted user

    Courtesy of:

    According to the IBOPE Zogby International 2012 survey on Community Associations:

    • 62 million Americans live in an estimated 315,000 association governed communities
    • Seven out of ten residents are satisfied with their association living experience
    • Residents rated their community experience as positive where they believed:
      • Association board members strive to serve the best interest of their communities
      • The association rules protect property values and they value the return received on their association assessment payments

    Elected association board members have the fiduciary responsibility to protect and enhance the association common elements and unit owner’s investments, by maintaining and preserving the property values of the community.  In order for the Board to maintain the Associations property value, they may contract to have a Reserve/Engineering Study completed to define to the Board/Unit Owners  the nature, timing, and cost of future capital replacement projects and assessment dollars needed for each project.

    In current difficult economic times, boards and unit owners are reluctant to raise assessments for future replacement projects and frequently delay projects in order to raise the necessary funds.  This increases the probability that repair costs for the later “fix” will be greater due to the problem becoming broader and deeper (or as our grandmother’s always told us; “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”)

    In a capital replacement project, boards and unit owners have the following options:

    • Pay for the project from the accumulated reserve dollars
    • Implement a special assessment
    • Obtain a commercial bank loan
    • Or a combination of any of the above options

    Paying for the capital replacement project from accumulated reserves dollars based on the reserve study is the best option, as dollars are set aside over time. The yearly reserve assessment increases are smaller and less of a burden on the unit owners to pay for the replacement projects.  

    Special Assessments are usually implemented, when there is a shortage of reserve dollars to pay for a capital replacement project and unit owners are given a limited period of time to pay their portion of the project cost.  If the Special Assessment is large, this may place a burden on unit owners that are unable to pay the onetime assessment charge and default on their payments, which places additional stress on the Association in trying to complete and pay for the project.  

    With a commercial bank loan, the capital replacement project is completed in a short period of time and the unit owners are not burdened with a onetime large assessment payment and are able to spread their portion of the project cost over time. There will be an increase cost to the project due to interest payments; however this still may be more palatable to the unit owners then a one time large Special Assessment payment.

    If the board decides to borrow dollars to complete a capital replacement project, a Community Association Lender will look most favorably (the best loan terms) to boards and unit owners that are proactive, well prepared and meet all the bank guidelines.  Community Association Lenders may require the following information:

    • Average unit market value
    • Number of units
    • Delinquent payment of assessments
    • Contingencies for bad debt
    • Assessment levels
    • Owner occupancy ratio
    • Insurance
    • Present and pending lawsuits
    • Repayment plan
    • Reserve funding

    An Association should surround itself with qualified professionals to ensure the project goes smoothly and is completed correctly.  

    The lender will need to understand how the scope of work was identified, the duration of the planned repairs, and the process for selecting the professionals to complete the projects. Prior to loan approval, the lender will require copies of the executed contracts for the work to be performed.

    Depending on the size of the project, an independent engineer or architect may be required to supervise the project and approve all advances on the loan and payouts to contractors.  
    Average unit value and number of units is taken into consideration to determine if the size of the loan requested, meets the bank’s guidelines. For example:

    • A 50 unit building requests a $1,000,000 loan
    • The units are valued at $100,000 each
    • The assessment per unit would be $20,000 (20% of its value), which the bank might consider this high.

    Assuming a 5 year repayment, the monthly amount due per unit would be about $333 per month, which does not include interest, regular assessment or mortgage payments. Such an expense has the potential to monetary stress unit owners, which may increase delinquencies and cause the association to default on the association loan.

    To prevent this, it is imperative that associations reserve funds for future capital expenses to reduce or eliminate the need for a loan.  If an association has reserves and is able to fund 50% of the project, this reduces the financial impact to owners and increases the probabilities of acquiring a loan.  

    Collateral for a community association loan is the assignment of future assessments of the association. Most lenders have internal guidelines regarding delinquent assessments that Associations must meet, to both qualify for a loan and maintain, while the loan is in place. Typically no more than:

    • 5% - 10% of the total number of units can be delinquent on assessment payments
    • 5% - 10% of the annual assessment income 

    Prior to obtaining a loan an association should establish a delinquency collection policy and adhere to it. The Association’s assessment income is the Bank’s source of repayment so the Association must be diligent about collecting all assessments. Delinquent accounts should be turned over to the Association’s attorney as the Association’s delinquency collection policy allows.  Associations with high delinquencies may not be able to secure a loan.

    Associations considering whether or not to take out a loan should incorporate a reserve for bad debt into their operating budgets. In the event of non-payment or late assessment payments, this reserve will help to ensure the association has sufficient cash flow to meet debt and operation obligations.

    The Board should determine the number of non-owner occupied units and what is currently allowed by Association policy. The lender’s guidelines for non-owner occupied units range from 20% to 30% of the total number of units.  

    The lender will require proof of adequate insurance as a condition of the loan. Insurance will be required to be maintained while the loan is in place and the lender will require that they are added to the policy as additional insured or loss payee. Boards should review their insurance levels annually with a qualified association insurance professional.

    Litigation against the association is also reviewed by the bank. As plaintiff or defendant, an association that is a party to a lawsuit complicates matters for owners trying to buy or sell units and can inhibit an association’s ability to obtain a loan. Lawsuits against the association may impact the ability to repay its loan due to increased or unbudgeted legal fees and the potential for a monetary settlement payout not covered by insurance or reserves. Association boards should act to resolve lawsuits in order to focus on day to day operations of the association.

    Community Association Lenders vary in documentation they require, their evaluation processes, and loan terms. Lenders with dedicated association staff, broad experiences, and strong portfolios are generally the easiest to work with and can guide you through the process. Associations considering a capital replacement project should contact a Community Association Lender early in the process, to acquire guidance and options in financing. This will aid in ensuring the loan is acquired in an expedient manner.

    Community Association Lenders know that Association Boards with strong leadership, that are well managed and proactively plan, demonstrate to the unit owners that the Board members are exercising their fiduciary duty to ensure the financial integrity of the Association and property values.

    (Wintrust Community Advantage®, with offices in IL and MN, is a division of Wintrust Financial Corporation, which has over 100 banking offices in IL and WI, with assets of $16 billion dollars.)

    Click here to view the original article. 

  • January 09, 2019 10:11 AM | Deleted user

    By: Anthony Dister, VP, CMCA, Community Advantage 

    Courtesy of: www.

    During the 1970s, the weekly news television show “60 Minutes” introduced a Point/Counterpoint debate segment in which journalist Shana Alexander provided a liberal point of view on a controversial topic against conservative James Kilpatrick. The shows popularity led to a parody skit on Saturday Night Live with Jane Curtin providing one point of view opposite conservative Dan Akroyd. When it comes to people’s homes and money, the debates can often become heated. In an effort to keep the discussion at board meetings from taking on the decorum of the latter, it is important to consider the options available to an association when planning for its next common element repair project.


    Board members have the fiduciary responsibility to maintain, preserve, and protect the association’s common elements. Unit owners want the price of their home to appreciate. The board is often trying to balance the demands of competing pressures.

    Real estate brokers have indicated that the primary drivers for buyers continue to be location, price, and curb appeal so maintaining the common elements and the overall appeal of the community will continue to be the most important aspect to boards, homeowners and potential buyers.

    Many associations are more than 20 years old and are showing signs of deteriorating infrastructure and deferred maintenance. Communities are often in competition with nearby properties for potential buyers. As a result, many boards wish to keep monthly assessments low in order to be more attractive to buyers. This can lead to the replacement of certain components that may have reached their useful life to be delayed or deferred. Alternatively, boards may choose to make recurring repairs to common elements or stretch a project out over time in an effort to avoid the large replacement cost and keep assessments low. The downside is that over time, the recurring repairs can add up to more than the replacement cost, and by spreading the repair project out over time the cost significantly increases due to repetitive set-up and staging costs. Community associations tend to receive more competitive bids and can save money by doing all the work at once.


    The board has several options when it comes to funding a large project. The first is reserve balances. Having sufficient reserves set aside is the best choice for funding a large capital replacement project. The downside is that having sufficient reserves means the board has to adequately fund its reserves, which can mean increased assessments.

    The second option (and most unpopular) is to pass a special assessment. The benefit is that it’s a means for the association to collect cash at one time to pay for the project without taking out a loan. The downside is that the large one time payment may be difficult for some or all of the unit owners. Special assessments may also have a negative impact on the owners’ ability to sell units within the association.

    The third option would be for the board to increase regular assessments and build reserves to fund the project. The downside for increasing regular assessments is that it may take years to contribute sufficient reserve funds for the pending project and once assessments have been increased they typically never return to their prior level.

    The fourth option is outside financing or an association loan. The loan could be used to fund the entire project or in combination with any of the above funding options. It is important for the board to explore all options and be creative when formulating an approach to select the option which is best for the overall association.


    The proceeds from an association loan can help to fund immediate common element repairs. The bank can work with the board to put in place a repayment plan tailored to best suit the association’s needs. There are many options available other than a lump sum payment or special assessments. The association loan can allow member assessments to increase slightly because the loan payments can be spread out over a longer repayment schedule. Repayment can go out to 15 years, however, a shorter term is recommended. The typical loan amortization is three, five, or seven years, depending on the useful life of the components being replaced, or the cash flow requirements of the association.

    In today’s economic environment, interest rates are at historical lows. Low interest rates are not good news for savings or reserve accounts. However, it is good news for association’s that are in the market for a repair or replacement loan and may have deferred maintenance. These associations can take advantage of today’s low rates and complete all needed projects with minimal interest expense.

    There are advantages to completing a project or multiple projects at one time. Associations will usually receive preferred pricing from contractors if the work is completed at once as opposed to spread out over time. If multiple projects are being considered, the association may have cost saving in work permits and one time setup costs such as scaffolding for roofing as well as masonry work. The association also avoids lengthy construction site issues by completing projects in a timely manner.

    The loan proceeds can be used for common element repairs, capital improvements, purchasing units within the association, as well as to replenish reserve balances. 


    The loan is a debt obligation that must be repaid with interest. The association will have a monthly principal and interest payment to the bank amortized over the term of the loan once the project is complete. The monthly loan payment will be included in the association’s annual budget with a line item or sufficient contributions to the reserves to cover the payment. While the loan is made to the association, the loan is ultimately repaid by the individual unit owners.

    The association may incur one-time setup costs associated with the loan which include bank loan documentation fees and attorney review fees. Loans made to community associations typically do not have commitment fees, non-usage fees or penalties for early payment.

    As part of the loan agreement, the association will be expected to provide annual financial reporting items and maintain certain standards or covenants for the duration of the loan depending on the financial institution. These include annual financial statements, budget, tax returns or other such information as required by the bank. For example, the repayment of the loan is based on the association having sufficient cash flow. One of the covenants that the bank will rely on to help measure the strength of the cash flow is the association’s delinquency ratios.

    Delinquency is typically defined as monthly assessments that are more than 60 days past due. The rate of delinquency commonly used by lenders is 10 percent or less in terms of number of units and/or dollars past due as a percentage of the annual budget. Having a relatively high delinquency rate may impact the association in receiving a higher interest rate for a loan or being charged a fee if the ratio is not maintained during the loan period. While maintaining a satisfactory delinquency rate is required for obtaining a loan, it is also in the best interest for the association in order to have sufficient cash flow to pay its bills on time. This ratio is also looked at by mortgage companies for owners buying/ selling units within the association.


    Funding a major project requires a proactive board and advance planning. While funding a project with replacement reserves is recommended, most associations are not in a position to fund a project entirely with reserve funds. One of the options available to an association is outside financing. A common element repair loan can help the association address its major challenges.

    • By providing funds to complete necessary projects in a timely and cost effective manner.
    • At the conclusion of the project, property values typically increase.
    • Special assessments may be financed with an association loan or increases in monthly assessments may spread out over time to repay a loan. 
    • With a properly structured loan, the association is typically in a stronger financial position at the completion of the loan due to its ability to maintain or build reserve balances.

    When considering outside financing for your association it is important to consider a combination of all options as well as opinions from all board members and committee volunteers. Boards should consult with professional teams early when planning a capital repair project. If considering a loan, it is best to consult with your financial institution to ensure the association meets all requirements for a loan. Similar to Point/ Counter Point there may not always be a right answer. The solution just has to make sense for your association.

    Click here to view the original article. 

  • December 18, 2018 2:12 PM | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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 | Deleted user

    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.

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