Condo Owners May Lose Access To Key Information Under Amended Law
Should condominium owners have the right to know the names and contact information of their neighbors—other owners in the building or within the condo or homeowners association?
Effective January 1, 2018, the Illinois Property Act was amended to require exactly that. Under Public Act 100-0292, state law requires condominium boards to provide names and addresses of individual condo owners, along with email addresses and phone numbers. This private information is required to be provided only to owners in the building, not the general public.
Consumer advocates fought for the amendment so condo owners would have access to the information they need in order to communicate with their neighbors and provide the necessary checks and balances to their association boards, management companies, and the attorneys that serve them.
Apparently, powerful lobbyists for big condo association boards, management companies and condo lawyers were not happy with the change in the law and now are working to dismantle Public Act 100-0292.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D) recently introduced Senate Bill 572, which would give every owner the right to opt out of disclosure, and calls for a fine for any person who discloses the information in violation of the expressed wishes of the member. But what about an owner who utilizes public ownership records and distributes that same information? Can he or she also be subject to a fine for sharing publicly available names and mailing addresses?
“Senate Bill 572 aims to allow only condo board members to obtain condo-owner contact information,” said Mike Pietrzak of the Network of Association Homeowners and Advocates.
“If it passes, the common owner would have no easy way to contact fellow owners if there
is a problem with current condo board, the management company, the association’s attorney. Only board members would be able to freely send information to the owners,” noted Pietrzak.
On February 13th, an initial legislative hearing on SB-572, a 75 disgruntled Illinois condo owners and voters submitted witness slips to oppose the bill to amend the change in state law, noted Pietrzak. Only six witness slips were filed in favor of SB-572.
To make matters worse, Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) and Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) have introduced an ordinance in Chicago’s City Council to use the city’s Home Rule Authority to allow Windy City condo associations to opt out of the consumer-oriented state law provisions of Public Act 100-0292.
“The proposed ordinance would allow condo association boards to limit the release of owner’s names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and weighted votes in Chicago condo buildings,” Hopkins said. “It restores local condo board discretion and strengthens condo owner’s individual rights to privacy.”
The proposal has been referred to the Chicago City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate for consideration. Why is there consumer resistance to SB-572 and the Hopkins-Reilly ordinance? According to Sara E. Benson, a Chicago Realtor, author, condo owner and consumer advocate, many condo boards, management companies and association attorneys do not want owners to be able to communicate with each other—particularly if their services are questionable.
“Service providers know their contracts come from the current board directors and they want to preserve the status quo. There is a lot of money in condo management and law—and the amount involved is staggering,” noted Benson, co-author with this writer of “Escaping Condo Jail,” a survival guide to condominium living.
“There are immense challenges associated with living under the rule of an association-governed community,” Benson said. “Keeping unit owner’s contact information ‘a secret’ is primarily the agenda of large property management companies, the law firms that serve associations, and a few select groups of board directors that fear transparency.”
In a letter to Ald. Hopkins, Benson compared a condo directory to a parent directory for a school, a college classmates list, or a church or temple directory for worshipers.
“Condo owners need to be able to contact fellow members in their association,” Benson wrote. “And, just like any of these other organization directories or lists, a condo owner can limit the information that gets published.” If a member does not want an email address or phone included, Benson said the owner simply needs to put in writing that they do not want that information used by the association.
Benson also noted that real property ownership is a matter of public record. However it may take hours of time to search assessor’s records and examine real estate tax bills of every owner in a condo building to contact owners, organize against and overthrow a dysfunctional bully board.
For more housing news, visit www.dondebat.biz. Don DeBat is co-author of “Escaping Condo Jail,” the ultimate survival guide for condominium living. Visit www.escapingcondojail.com.