Until now, most activity around the Illinois Ombudsperson Act of 2017 has involved setting up the position and responding to information requests. In the next few years, the office will also be responsible for association registration, legislative reform, unit owner complain resolution, and enforcement.
New Ombudsperson in Office
The new Condominium and Common Interest Community Association (CCIC) Ombudsperson, Adrienne Levatino, has been at work since January 2017. The Ombudsperson must offer training, educational materials and courses to unit owners, associations, boards of managers and boards of directors in subjects relevant to the operation or management of condominiums and common interest communities under the Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act. In the past 18 months, she has received over 140 written requests for information and advice.
It’s important for community association residents to have appropriate expectations about what the Illinois Ombudsperson will and will not do.
What Associations Must Do
It’s important to note that an important deadline for association boards is fast approaching: on January 1, 2019, all associations governed by either the Illinois Condo Act or Common Interest Community Act must enact a written owner complaint policy to be compliant with the act. This policy will provide the framework for the dispute resolution process in the future.
Each association’s complaint policy is key to the overall dispute resolution process. Before the Ombudsperson can help resolve a dispute, it has to go through the association’s process. Therefore, a clear policy must be made available to each owner in an association.
The policy must include:
- A sample form upon which owners can make complaints,
- A description of the process by which complaints are to be delivered to the Association,
- The Association’s timeline and manner of making final determinations in response to a unit owner’s complaints, and
- A requirement that the final determination made by the association in response to a unit owner’s complaint be in writing, within a reasonable time after the unit owner’s original complaint, and marked clearly and conspicuously as “final”.
Please note that complaints cannot be filed by unit owners until July 1, 2019 and the law will be automatically repealed July 1, 2022.
Dispute Resolution Requirements
By July 2020, the office of the Ombudsperson shifts from an advisory to a dispute resolution role. “Qualifying unit owners may ask for assistance in resolving issues with an association.” says David Bendoff, attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit, “However, it’s important to note that the types of violations that qualify for dispute resolution is narrow in scope, and the window for dispute resolution is short – only three years.”
A unit owner can only made a complaint if:
- They do not owe any funds to the association, unless the funds are central to the dispute;
- They have followed their association’s complaint resolution policy;
- The dispute has occurred in the past two years;
- They have received a final adverse decision from their association; and
- They file the complaint with the Ombudsperson within 30 days of receiving a final decision from the association.
The ombudsperson may not get involved with disputes with community association managers, or with disputes for which there is a pending complaint in any court or administrative tribunal.
Important publications from the Ombudsperson office: