Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a new condominium in Chicago! After you’ve met all or at least most of your neighbors, here are some ways to help make sure that your condo association remains in tip-top shape. After all, associations that are well maintained are nicer places to live, help keep assessments low, and have great curb appeal.
Reserves are key. They help ensure that unit owners will be able to manage their association on a day-to-day basis. But they are also important in case of emergencies and to plan for necessary capital replacements and real estate improvements. No owners want to be surprised with unexpected special assessments.
What is considered a healthy reserve? Necessary reserves must be based on the operational needs of the association, but two months of assessments is typical. Two months of assessments are typical for a developer to collect as a start for a new condominium association but then the board of directors must develop a reserve funding plan based on future needs.
Some associations have very few common elements, whereas others might have extensive common elements such as central heating and cooling systems. Well-run associations should have a reserve study done by a professional to establish the reserve requirements.
Communication is essential. Board members need the support of the owners that elect them and owners to understand the background for their decisions.
The Illinois Condominium Property Act provides that a condominium’s board of managers shall meet at least four times each year regardless of the association’s size. Bylaws are required, formally adopted regulations for the administration and management of the association. They include provisions for member meetings, voting rights, procedures for electing the board of directors, and the powers and duties of the board.
Some warning signs that your condo association may be having problems are: A high rate of delinquencies; unexpected special assessments; lapses in critical services like heat or rubbish removal; no or very little communication; boards are not holding board meetings; sales are lower than in comparable buildings; residents are unhappy; no meeting minutes; poor housekeeping; and/or damage to common elements not covered by insurance.
Lou Lutz is a condo management specialist who can help condo associations meet the needs of their residents.
Condo association managers like Lutz can provide guidance in the primary responsibilities of community, governance, and business. Good managers have expertise in building operations, finances, and applicable laws. They have experienced challenges and projects that would be new to most board members. The manager also brings continuity to the association to help transition from one group of elected board members to the next.
Victoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.