City of Chicago seeks to undo state law pertaining to records requests made by condo owners

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Now here is a prime example of the uphill battle of enacting and maintaining consumer-friendly legislative reform of association-governed common interest communities.

In 2017, Illinois enacted Act 100-0292, a small but important positive step for housing consumers. The state law requires association-governed communities to provide, upon member request, a list of all member phone numbers and email addresses. The amended statute also removes the previous requirement that any records request be for a “proper purpose.”

To prevent spam email and telemarketing directed to fellow condo members, an owner requesting access to membership contact information (or official ballots) can now be required to sign a statement promising not to use such information for commercial purposes.

IL Act 100-0292, enacted in 2017

Some board members hate Act 100-0292. They know that giving condo owners access to certain personal contact information makes it much easier for members to communicate with each other regarding association business. Having access to emails and phone numbers allows an owner who wishes to blow the whistle on the board or management, or to run for a seat on the board, to reach out to more unit owners.

In short, some board members fear a challenge to their authority, and would prefer to operate with minimal transparency, with full control of all communication venues for the association.

And some rogue boards certainly don’t want a condo owner second-guessing tabulation of election ballots, for obvious reasons.

But since condo boards sign management contracts and retainer agreements for community association attorneys, a sizable cohort of association-governed community industry professionals don’t like Act 100-0292 either. They loathe the idea of condo board leadership transition, which almost always leads to an abrupt end to their services.

Now, within months after this consumer-friendly amendment, condominium association managers and attorneys are trying to get around state law.

Apparently, some influential community association trade group members and board members are working with Chicago elected officials to enact a City Ordinance that would severely restrict a condo owner’s access to personal contact information of association members, as well as a record of voting interests assigned to members and developers.

Incredibly, Chicago Aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly favor a citywide law that would create even more limitations than pre-2017 Illinois Statute.

Chicago Tribune article explains that, if the Ordinance is enacted, condo owners would face limitations on their rights to access “owners’ names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and weighted votes in Chicago condo buildings and complexes.”

In addition, city law would give condo associations up to 30 days to release information to owners. State law requires access within 10 days.

But if a condo association operates efficiently and transparently, it should be able to comply with a records request within 10 days, right?

Two Chicago aldermen want to limit release of condo owners’ personal information

Hal Dardick
Chicago Tribune

Jan. 18, 2018 6:15 p.m.

Two Chicago aldermen who represent most of downtown want to reverse a state law that makes condo owners’ personal information more widely available to their fellow association members.

A proposal introduced this week by Aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly would allow association boards to limit the release of owners’ names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers and weighted votes in Chicago condo buildings and complexes.

For Chicago, that would reverse a change in state law that kicked in with the start of the year.

The new state rules require more owner data be turned over to any association member who requests it. Condo boards already had to turn over names and addresses, and the state added email addresses and phone numbers, provided none of the data is used for commercial purposes.

Read more:

Alderman Hopkins regurgitates the standard trade group talking point that problems with abuse and corruption in condo associations are rare occurrences.

Most housing consumers these days don’t buy it.

Hopkins’ statement is particularly ironic, given the fact that he was once arrested by police for distributing campaign materials too close to a polling place. (See New alderman still rightly proud of his arrest record, Chicago Tribune, April 10, 2015) At the time, Hopkins referred to the police officer arresting him as a “tyrant.”

For those readers who still believe that out-of-control condo boards are uncommon, I pose the following question:

How much abuse, deception, and corruption do you find acceptable?

Here’s another way to look at it.

Most people lock doors to their homes and vehicles to prevent theft. They purchase homeowners’ and vehicle insurance to reimburse them in the event of general liability, fire, or accidents. Millions in the U.S. also invest money in home and business security systems.

In every case, the chances of becoming a victim of crime or calamity is relatively low. But anyone with common sense behaves in a way that minimizes their risk.

In the same way, condo owners — and owners in planned communities with HOAs, for that matter — need full access to pertinent information about their association. That includes contact information for co-owners, who share a common financial obligation to maintain the quality of their housing and the safety and solvency of their community.

It’s just common sense.

Shame on Aldermen Hopkins and Reilly for attempting to undo state law that benefits their constituents.

Read the proposed Chicago Ordinace:

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