Board is lax in collection of assessments
Q: Our condominium board has a collections problem. There is one unit in arrears of $4,000. No legal actions have been taken and our property manager doesn't do a good job of getting timely payments.
The collection process involves issuing a violation notice and providing a hearing, and eventually it gets turned over to an attorney for collections. The board is considering using a collection agency to collect unpaid assessments. What are your thoughts on this?
A: The issue here is probably more about the process and timeline the board uses to initiate a collection than anything else. That is, the board needs to be more aggressive and streamline the collection process.
If the board wants to send a reminder letter to the owner when the owner is delinquent for 30 days, for example, that is fine. However, and importantly, it is not necessary to send a notice of violation and provide an opportunity for a hearing in connection with assessment collections.
Simply put, a unit owner should be turned over to an attorney to pursue collection if the owner is in arrears for 60 days. In Illinois, this collection action would be an eviction action. This aggressive process should result in better results faster, and encourage owners to make timely payments of assessments.
And, per state law, the association is entitled to seek recovery of its attorney's fees from the delinquent unit owner. That is the process I suggest.
Q: The board of our association was presented a petition signed by about 25% of the owners. The petition requests the board to install a dog run at the back of the building. This dog run would provide residents with a location to let their dogs exercise and go outside. The board has expressed some reluctance, indicating it is not visually appealing, but has not made a decision. Is the board required to have this dog run installed based on the petition of the owners?
A: The board is not required to have this dog run installed. Whether or not to do so is a business decision of the board. Because beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the board may want to take a poll of the owners on the issue. The poll is nonbinding and is advisory only, but may assist the board in reaching a decision on an issue of this nature.
Q: I reside in a common interest community association. Can you comment on whether an association board can continue to meet over Zoom now that the pandemic is "officially" over? While I'm OK with Zoom meetings, it's certainly not ideal and doesn't promote any sort of community camaraderie. I know people who simply will not participate in a Zoom call.
A: The ability of a board of directors to conduct board meetings via use of acceptable technological means, like video meetings, predated the pandemic. Specifically, board members may participate in and act at any meeting of the board of managers in person, by telephonic means, or by use of any acceptable technological means whereby all people participating in the meeting can communicate with each other. Such participation constitutes attendance and presence in person at the meeting.
That said, many boards did not become aware of this until the pandemic. Nonetheless, many association boards continue to conduct board meetings via video, for a variety of reasons and importantly because it allows board members to participate from wherever they may actually be.
I am advised that owner turnout for video board meetings is much higher than for in person board meetings. Many would contend that creates greater camaraderie and involvement.
• David M. Bendoff is an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in the Chicago suburbs. 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.