Condo Law Watch

The Electronic Revolution Is Coming: New Changes Effective January 1, 2015, for Condo and CICAA Properties

Beginning January 1, 2015, there are some major changes coming to bylaws provisions for condominium and common interest associations in Illinois. The Illinois legislature has passed HB 5332 that now allows for quite an electronic revolution in association voting procedures. This was signed by Governor Quinn into law on August 25, 2014, and will cause major changes in how Illinois associations process their elections and owner votes.

First, the changes to both acts will allow for email notice to owners. Owners will be able to provide an email address that may be used for notices of meetings and any other association business. As we discussed elsewhere in this newsletter, there are certain procedures that need to be followed to allow for email notice, including changing an association’s rules and regulations or community documents to include email notice provisions and procedures.

Additionally, the general changes to both Acts now allow for owners to vote using email or electronic means rather than personally appearing at owners’ meetings. Electronic votes will count towards quorum for both types of associations and owners may vote in the annual election, or on any other owner-vote business, using email or electronic means. These votes may be revoked by appearance in person, but they are just as good as old fashioned paper ballots starting January 1, 2015.

There are unanswered questions as to the types of electronic means that will be sufficient, but changes to both Acts recognize that an email vote easily identified as coming from a specific owner (meaning either the email address submitted to the association for email notice or using some form of verification through software) will be valid. The changes to both Acts intend for the association to distribute instructions on how to vote and include known candidates with the ability for owners to add write-in candidates for board elections. For both Acts, electronic voting records must be kept on file as part of an association’s records for the same duration as paper ballots and election records.

Condominium owners will continue to be able to use proxies for board elections if their instruments so provide, but CICAA owners still may not vote by proxy for board elections. Additionally, CICAA properties may no longer use a secret ballot, and candidates for election to CICAA boards no longer have the right to be present to observe while ballots are being counted.

Interestingly, condominium board members who issue electronic notices must certify that notices have been given by electronic means, but CICAA directors do not have the same records obligation.

Both amendments allow for a broad range of technology to be used for electronic notices. The definitions provide for nearly any type of electronic communication over a network, and would logically include email, fax transmission and text messaging. It may be useful to designate specific acceptable means in your particular rules or bylaws amendments to avoid the “OMG” moment when owners flood the association’s smartphone with text messages. Ultimately, owners who wish to continue to receive paper notices may still do so and cannot be charged an individual cost for paper notice and paper voting.

Despite the potential growing pains, these changes may make it easier and less expensive for associations to process owner business for meetings and votes via electronic means.

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