Do you own a condo? Are you tired of dealing with petty disputes among your members? Are you wondering what an Ombudsperson is? Then you MUST read this. Many owners and board members, especially in small, self-managed buildings, are unaware of a newer law. Effective January 1, 2017, the Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act went into effect. The Act established an “Ombudsperson” office which designed to educate and assist owners with respect to the condo laws. This is a fancy way of saying condo and homeowners can now try to resolve their disputes with the Ombudsperson before going to court.
The legislature found that unit owners and persons charged with managing condominium property or common interest communities may have little to no prior experience in managing real property – you’ve probably felt that way if you were ever tasked with filing your Association’s annual report or trying to navigate the bylaws to deal with a non-paying member of your Association! For those reasons, and many others, the legislature found that mistakes and misunderstandings are inevitable and may lead to costly and divisive problems.
So, the Ombudsperson is responsible for assisting owners with various issues, including association registration, legislative reform, complaint resolution, and enforcement. It is important to note that complaints cannot be filed by unit owners until July 1, 2019, and the law will be automatically repealed July 1, 2021. Although the Act has a short shelf-life it is important to understand what it entails.
Here are key provisions of the Act:
By January 1, 2019, associations must adopt a written policy for resolving complaints made by unit owners – the law is mandatory, even if your Association never takes advantage of it.
Associations must provide sample forms for unit owners’ complaints and give instructions by which the complaints are to be delivered to the Association. The Association must also provide a timeline of making final determinations in response to a unit owner’s complaints
Additionally, starting July 1, 2020, unit owners may make complaints to the Ombudsperson for assistance in settling a dispute between a unit owner and an association. However, the Ombudsperson will not accept requests for resolutions of disputes that are pending in any court.
The Act requires the Division to offer training, educational materials and courses to unit owners, associations, and boards of directors regarding the operation and management of condominiums and common interest properties.
Participation in the Ombudsperson program for purposes of resolving a dispute is voluntary
The Ombudsperson Act is lengthy and this blog serves as just a summary. It is therefore crucial that each condominium and common interest community association become familiar with the law – the deadlines are quickly approaching! Feel free to call me with any questions.