Meetings allow board, not unit owners, to discuss association business

Q: Owners in our association are told by the board they are welcome to attend board meetings. However, the owners who do attend board meetings are instructed they are not allowed to speak. The board does allow a short period of time after the board meeting is over for owner comments. Are there rules governing this?

A: In all Illinois associations, board meetings are for the purpose of conducting board business. Owners do have a right to attend the open portions of board meetings and observe. However, boards of associations are not required to permit owners to participate or comment in a board meeting.

Notably, the board of a common interest community association is required to reserve a portion of the board meeting for comments by unit owners. The duration and meeting order for the owner comment period is within the sole discretion of the board. Condominium and master associations are not under this obligation to include an owner comment period in board meetings.

That said, the board of condominium and master associations often put aside some portion of the board meeting as an owner forum.

Q: The board of our condominium recently met in an executive session to discuss an owner's recent violation of the rules. At that time, the board voted to find that a violation did take place, and agreed on a fine to be imposed against the owner. This was not communicated to the owner. It was later learned that a notice of violation had never been issued to the owner in question regarding this violation. Isn't this a problem?

A: While the board can meet in executive session to discuss an owner's violation of the rules, any vote related to that issue, such as issuing a fine, must take place in an open board meeting. Moreover, it would be premature to determine that a violation took place and to levy a fine if the owner had not yet been provided a written notice of violation and an opportunity for a hearing.

This matter can be salvaged by issuing a written notice of violation and providing the owner with an opportunity for a hearing.

Q: The bylaws for our association say an election to the board takes place in October of each year. The bylaws are silent as to when the term of the newly elected board members actually begin. In order to effect an orderly transition, the board adopted rules that provide that the term of a board member elected at the October annual meeting begins on Dec. 1. Is this a legitimate rule?

A: The terms of the board members elected at the annual meeting begin immediately upon their election, not at some future date. The rule adopted by the board here is not appropriate. Note also that language in the bylaws for many associations provide that a meeting of the newly elected board is to take place immediately upon the conclusion of the annual meeting where they are elected. The board typically elects the new officers (Treasurer, vice president, etc.) at this meeting.

Q: The board of our association entered into a contract for cleaning services. The preprinted language in the contract provides that "The term of this contract shall be for three years." In the margin of the contract next to that language, a sentence was handwritten with pen that states "The term of this contract shall be for two years." It looks like it was initialed by both parties. What is the actual term of the contract?

A: Under the rules of contract construction, the handwritten language controls over the preprinted typed language. The contract is for two years.

• David M. Bendoff is an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in the Chicago suburbs. Send questions for the column to him at 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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