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associations. Additionally, the Ombudsperson is charged with creating an informational website containing the Illinois Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act, along with other relevant and useful information. The website will also contain information regarding services provided by the Office of the Ombudsperson, including, non-judicial dispute resolution. The Act notes in Section 20(c):

“Information and advice provided by the Ombudsperson has no binding legal effect and is not subject to the rulemaking provisions of the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act.”

It is not until July 1, 2019 that the Ombudsperson will begin accepting requests for assistance from homeowners. It is important to note several stipulations in Section 40 of the Act, which outlines such requests. First, dispute resolution is only between an association and a homeowner:

“The Ombudsperson shall not accept requests for resolutions of disputes with Community Association Managers, supervising community association managers, or community association management firms…”

Also, in order for a complaint to be heard, the individual bringing the complaint has a number of conditions related to standing, prior attempts at resolution, and specific timeframes that must be met. Specifically the homeowner must meet the following requirements: the homeowner cannot owe any outstanding assessments or fees (unless the amounts are the subject of the dispute); the disputed issue must have been initiated or occurred within the past two calendar years; the homeowner must have first made written complaint to the association and followed its internal procedures; the homeowner must have received a final adverse decision from the association; and the homeowner must have filed the request for dispute resolution within 30 days after receiving the association’s final response.

Once these conditions have been met, and the Ombudsperson’s Office receives a written complaint, the Ombudsperson will assist in efforts to resolve the dispute. It is imperative to note that this process is not mandatory. The Act provides clearly that “[t]he Ombudsperson shall assist only opposing parties that mutually agree to participate in dispute resolution.” Further, any decision is non-binding, and no penalties or enforcement provisions have yet been enacted.

On October 1, 2020, the Office of the Ombudsperson will be required to submit an annual written report to the legislature, which must include statistics on all complaints heard, and an analysis of the most common types of complaints heard. This information will then be used to formulate new legislation and reform to “reduce the frequency or severity of those disputes.”

The Condominium and Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act will face its first true hurdle almost immediately. A new, unfunded office has been created within

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the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and the Ombudsperson will need to be appointed by the new Republican Governor, Bruce Rauner. Given the ongoing battles over Illinois’ current financial standing, it is likely that several “trailer bills” may be proposed and passed before there is much movement toward full enactment and implementation of the Ombudsperson Act. Illinois has taken its first step toward providing homeowners with an avenue to bring complaints without the costly, lengthy, and intimidating process of filing a formal lawsuit. It will now be up to the Democratic controlled legislature and the newly elected Republican Governor to see the process through. Even then, the effectiveness of the Ombudsperson Act may not be known for many years.

1 Florida, Virginia, and Nevada all have Ombudsman Offices. Colorado has a similar program, however its function is informational only for homeowners. For an excellent discussion of the various existing offices see CAI’s Publication “Memorandum on Offices of Community Association Ombudsmen” - March 2014.

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