THE OMBUDSPERSON:  2016 AMENDMENTS AND UPDATE

On August 12, 2016 Governor Rauner signed Public Act 99-0776 which makes several significant changes to the original Ombudsperson Act.  This article will provide quick highlights of certain changes contained in P.A. 99-0776.

Registration of Community Associations

Critical to all associations, the requirement that all common interest communities and condominium associations register with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulations has been removed.  No registration is required.

Association Internal Dispute Resolution Policies

All associations subject to the Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act must adopt their own policies for resolving complaints made by owners no later than January 1, 2019.  The original bill required the policies to be in place by January 1, 2017 so associations have been afforded two additional years to develop these policies.  The Act current provides that these policies must include a form on which an owner may make the complaint, a description of the process by which the complaint must be submitted, the timeline in which the Association will resolve the complaint, and the requirement that the Association make its “final” decision within 180 days.

The Current Role of the Ombudsperson

No later than July 1, 2017, the ombudsperson is to begin offering training, outreach and educational materials to the public and it may also offer courses related to the management and operation of community associations, the Condominium Property Act and the Common Interest Community Association Act.  The ombudsperson is to also offer a toll-free number for contact and inquiry purposes in addition to providing information regarding alternative dispute resolution providers (arbitrators, mediators) and methods available to communities and their members.  The ombudsperson does not have authority to consider any matters involving claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act or that are properly brought before the Department of Human Rights or the Illinois Human Rights Commission.  The amendments to the Act provide that certain information reported to the Ombudsperson is not be subject to certain Freedom of Information Act requests.

Reporting to the General Assembly

The Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is required to provide its first written report of the ombudsperson’s activities to the General Assembly no later than July 1, 2018 and beginning in 2019, annual reports of the office’s activity are to be filed no later than October 1st. It is expected that the General Assembly and administration will use these reports to evaluate the proper, future role of the ombudsperson.