Q. I live in a condominium association and the county assessor's assessed valuation of my unit seems very high compared to the sales prices of comparable units. Fellow owners I have spoken to about this subject all agree. Is there something that the association, as an entity, can do to challenge these high assessed valuations?
A. Yes. The board of managers acting on behalf of all unit owners has the power to seek relief from, or in connection with, the assessment or levy of real estate taxes for all of the individual units. This generally requires the approval of two-thirds of the members of the board of managers.
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Note, too, that the board can charge and collect from the owners all expenses incurred in connection with such a challenge of the assessments. Typically, law firms that handle these types of tax cases do so on a contingent fee basis. The contingent fee is a percentage of the anticipated real estate tax savings.
Appealing the assessed valuation of the individual units in the association by the board can yield significant tax savings to the unit owners, given the continuing negative effect of the real estate bubble on housing prices.
Q. My question concerns the law that requires Illinois community association managers to be licensed. Prior to the effective date of Oct. 1, 2012, there was a grandfather clause for the then-current property managers that provided the initial education requirement and test to be waived. You indicated in your column that the grandfather application had to be done before March 31, 2012. Did that date hold or was the time extended?
A. Since Oct. 1, 2012, it became unlawful to manage a community association in Illinois without a license issued by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. There is an exception for the management of a community association of 10 or fewer units.
A community association manager is an individual who, for compensation, administers the financial, administrative, maintenance or other duties for a community association. These services include collecting, controlling or disbursing funds of the association or having authority do so; preparing budgets or other financial documents for the association; assisting in the conduct of association meetings; and administering association contracts. This does not include support staff, such as bookkeepers, administrative assistants, secretaries, property inspectors or customer service representatives, who do not have to be licensed.
The law did include a grandfather clause waiving the initial education requirement and test if the manager had practiced as a community association manager for five of the last ten years, or achieved a specified designation from Community Associations Institute or the Institute of Real Estate Management. However, this grandfather method of licensure was only available through March 31, 2012. Managers who missed that deadline would have to satisfy the initial education requirement and test.
Q. Can board members assemble outside the presence of unit owners to discuss association matters?
A. Yes. These gatherings are commonly referred to as "workshops." Workshops are usually held as planning sessions for a board. The open meetings provisions of the statutes that govern associations apply if the board is "conducting board business." Conducting board business is generally viewed as voting on matters. So, the board cannot vote on any matter at such workshops, as votes can only be taken at a board meeting.
Workshops should be used carefully as planning sessions, and not as a substitute for discussion at board meetings. While lawful, a board needs to nonetheless be mindful of the political ramifications of holding such workshops. Unfortunately, it is easy for owners to mischaracterize any closed assembly of the board, and to make an assumption that something evil is taking place behind closed doors.
• David M. Bendoff is an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in Buffalo Grove. Send questions for the column to him at CondoTalk@ksnlaw.com. The firm provides legal service to condominium, townhouse, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives. This column is not a substitute for consultation with legal counsel.