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posted: 3/29/2014 12:01 AM

Snowbirds leave condos chilly

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Q. Many of our unit owners in our condominium association spend winters in Florida or Arizona. Each unit is served by its own HVAC system, and a lot of these snowbirds turn the heat off in their unit while away. This winter has been particularly brutal. This has caused pipes to burst, resulting in great damage. Can a board make a rule requiring owners to keep the heat in units at a certain minimum temperature? If so, can the board pass such a rule as an emergency or does it have to go through the normal adoption process, and doesn't that take 30 days?

A. The board has the authority to adopt and amend rules and regulations covering the details of the operation and use of the property. Under this authority, a board can adopt a rule establishing a minimum temperature at which a unit must be maintained. The rationale for this is that a minimum unit temperature is necessary to reduce the likelihood that a pipe will burst from the cold. The rule would have to be adopted through the normal rules adoption procedure, as there is no "emergency" exception. The time period within which a rule can be adopted is often confused for the time period within which the annual budget is adopted. A rule can be adopted by the board in as little as 10 days.

Q. For some time, the board of our condominium association has contracted for cable television service on a bulk basis. This is charged to each unit as a flat fee. Recently, the board contracted for bulk Internet service, and intends to charge each unit for that service as well. We know from one of your prior columns that the board can charge equally for cable TV. Can the board do the same for Internet access? Where does it stop; can the board do the same for telephone service?

A. Section 14.3 of the Condominium Property Act addresses this issue. The board is authorized to obtain, if available and determined by the board to be in the best interests of the association, cable television or bulk high-speed Internet service for all of the units of the condominium on a bulk identical service and equal cost-per-unit basis. The board can assess and recover the expense as a common expense.

Further, the board can assess each and every unit on the same equal cost-per-unit basis. The law does not currently permit the board to do the same for telephone service. That said, given advances in voice over Internet technology, it would not surprise me if, in the future, changes are made to the law that would extend a board's authority in this arena, as well.

Q. The annual assessment in our common interest community association of single-family homes is due in a single installment. Our board has not yet adopted a budget for 2014. We are about to close on the sale of our home. The buyer wants to know what the annual assessment will be so that we can prorate it at closing. What do we do since the 2014 assessment has not been established?

A. I would handle this just like real estate taxes are typically prorated. If the 2014 annual assessment is not established by the closing date for your transaction, the buyer and seller could agree to prorate the 2014 assessment based on the amount of the 2013 assessment. The parties would also agree to re-prorate the assessments when the actual 2014 special assessment is levied (if it is different from the 2013 annual assessment).

• 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.

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