Author: Adam Kahn
Hoarding is more than the accumulation of everyday clutter. The 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists ‘hoarding disorder’ as a distinct mental illness and characterizes it as “persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of their actual value”. The over-accumulation of personal items in a condominium unit commonly attracts pests, causes foul odors to emanate from the unit, and presents a life-safety fire hazard to all residents.
While hoarding may remain undetected for a time behind the walls and closed doors of a condominium unit, the situation can escalate and pose a nuisance, such as transmission of foul odor, pest infestation, etc., and thus a safety and/or health risk to the entire community, including the affected resident. The issue of hoarding is only exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as condominium residents remain cooped up in their homes.
Hoarding situations are unlikely to go away on their own and, if left unchecked, may even worsen over time. As such, condominium boards and management (if professionally managed) will need to intervene when a hoarding situation is detected. This can be difficult, as persons suffering from hoarding disorder may be unwilling to cooperate and clean out their units.
While each situation is unique, the following steps are a general outline to assist boards to effectively handle a hoarding condition in a condominium unit:
- Document the Issue: Detailed written records of all complaints, such as foul odor emanating from the unit or a pest infestation, should be kept. This will help foster early detection of hoarding issues and will be needed if legal action becomes necessary. Written complaints can also be the basis for levying a fine for noxious and offensive conduct in a unit (a common use prohibition in condominium declarations); however, fining alone is unlikely to cause a person with a hoarding disorder to voluntarily change their behavior. Fines are routinely used if there is no voluntary cooperation after step 2 below is attempted.
- Contact the Unit Owner and their Family: The board or management (if the association is professionally managed) should send a letter to the unit owner identifying the problem and directing that the unit be cleaned by a certain date (e.g., within 10 business days) or the association will exercise its rights under applicable law and the association’s governing documents to resolve the issue. If the unit is occupied by a hoarding tenant, the unit owner of the unit at issue should still be contacted because they have a vested interest in making sure that their unit does not fall into a state of disrepair and may even be able to assist in resolving the issue. Additionally, working with caring friends or family members of the resident can be an effective strategy to resolve the issue. As a courtesy, the board or management may also contact a local service agency, call the resident before sending the letter demanding that the unit be cleaned out, and / or recommend vendors that specialize in cleaning out units; however, as noted above, voluntary cooperation can be difficult to obtain.
- Engage Legal Counsel to Gain Access to the Unit: If the resident refuses to voluntarily clean their unit (or if the situation is sufficiently severe to warrant skipping the step of seeking voluntary compliance), the next step is to engage the association’s legal counsel to enforce association remedies, which may include issuing a demand letter to obtain access to the unit to have it cleaned out, and if the situation is not resolved, filing a declaratory lawsuit to obtain a court order for access to the unit to have it cleaned out or require that the resident clean out the unit by a date certain.
- Hire a Professional to Clean the Unit: Once access to the unit is obtained – either voluntarily or involuntarily via court order – a professional cleaning service should be engaged to clean out the unit. Pictures of the condition of the unit should be taken before any cleaning is done in case a dispute arises after cleaning is complete. Most condominium declarations provide that the costs for cleaning out units will be charged back to the unit owner, but the association’s governing documents should be reviewed to confirm.
Board members should be mindful that hoarding disorder is a mental illness and should rely on the association’s professionals to assist with resolving a hoarding situation. The above recommendations are intended to highlight common strategies for effectively handling a hoarding issue but are not an exhaustive list of all available remedies.
Likely, yes, but employers must consider accommodation requests.
While we have not received clear guidance from government authorities on administering or requiring the COVID-19 vaccine, we hope to receive such guidance once the vaccine becomes available to the general population. Of course, government guidance necessarily will guide how employers proceed.
As the law stands now, employers will likely be able to require that employees get vaccinated for COVID. However, employers will have to consider accommodation requests from employees for medical reasons, religious reasons, or pregnancy. What is reasonable, as always, will depend on the circumstances. Employers will have a strong argument that having an unvaccinated employee would cause an undue burden and/or direct threat to other employees, and therefore no accommodation is required by law. Unfortunately, that argument has not yet been tested as related to COVID-19. Employers will also need to check state and local law for prohibitions.
For employers who choose to require the vaccine, we recommend that the employer pay for the vaccine itself and for the time spent getting it.
LP will continue to monitor guidance related to administering the vaccine and update the answer to this question accordingly.
Author: Becky Canary-King
Whether employees are entitled to time off to vote depends on state law. In Illinois, employers must provide employees up to two hours of unpaid time off to vote, if the employee's working hours begin less than 2 hours after the opening of the polls and end less than 2 hours before the closing of the polls. While many more individuals are likely to vote by mail this year, Illinois law allows employees to take this time off to vote in person on election day. Employees must request this time off before election day.
The Labor & Employment Attorneys at Levenfeld Pearlstein are here to help with your labor and employment needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question or concern.
Author: Adam Kahn
With condominium residents spending more time in their units due to the COVID-19 pandemic, complaints of smoke/odor transmission are on the rise. Below is a summary of what condominium residents and boards need to know about smoke/odor transmission complaints:
Is Smoking Allowed in Condo Units? It depends. Check the Association’s governing documents. There might be a prohibition on smoking within individual condo units or requirements for addressing smoke/odor transmission issues in the rules and regulations.
Can My Condo Association Ban Smoking in Units? Yes – A ban on smoking in units may be accomplished via a formal amendment to the Association’s declaration or by-laws, which requires the approval of a supermajority of the unit owners as set forth in the governing documents. In contrast, smoking in the common elements, such as common hallways, lobbies, etc., may be prohibited via a rule. We recommend that the board consult with the Association’s legal counsel on a declaration amendment to prohibit smoking in units to ensure that proper procedures are followed.
Note: the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act, which decriminalized consumption of recreational cannabis in Illinois, adds nuance to restricting consumption of cannabis in units. Click here for our datapoint on clarified options for restricting cannabis consumption in condo units.
My Governing Documents Do Not Prohibit Smoking – Is There Anything that Can Be Done About Smoke/Odor Transmission? Yes – Condominium association governing documents customarily include a prohibition on noxious and offensive conduct and nuisance, which would include unreasonable smoke/odor transmissions. While smoking in units may not be prohibited, unreasonable smoke/odor transmission into another unit or the common elements may constitute a nuisance and thus violate the prohibition on noxious and offensive conduct. Said another way, if there is no prohibition on smoking in units, residents may smoke in their units, but not in a manner that causes a nuisance such as unreasonable smoke/odor transmission.
My Condo Unit Reeks Due to My Neighbor’s Second-Hand Smoke – What Should I do?
The first step is to document the issue. The second step is to submit a complaint to the Board or management if there is a managing agent.
Check your condominium association’s rules and regulations for procedures for smoke complaints and confirm whether your association has a specific complaint form to be filled out and submitted. You will also need to identify the source of the smoke, which can be difficult. Normally, a best practice is to have a third party (staff or a neighbor) verify the smoke issue to corroborate that (i) the smoke transmission exists; (ii) the smoke is coming from a particular unit; and (iii) if smoking in units is not prohibited (again, check the governing documents for a smoking ban), the smoke transmission rises to the level of an objective nuisance. Verification can usually be done from the common element hallway to avoid having someone come into your home (not recommended during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic).
Complaints along with any verification should be submitted to management (if any) or the condo board, and the board will determine the appropriate next steps, which may include issuing a violation notice and holding a fine hearing. Keep in mind that without verification, the condo board’s options for addressing the issue are limited.
The Condo Association lawyers at Levenfeld Pearlstein are here to help you with your pandemic-related questions, and other condo association matters as well. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question or concern.
Author: Becky Canary-King
Employers should generally follow CDC guidance on discontinuing isolation:
- Symptomatic employees who have tested positive can return to work after (1) at least 10 days have passed since symptom onset, (2) at least 24 hours have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications, and (3) other symptoms have improved.
- Asymptomatic employees who have tested positive can return to work 10 days after the date of their first positive test.
Employers may also choose to require employees to receive a negative test or provide documentation from a health care provider prior to returning to work. Employers should also check any local COVID guidelines.
The Labor & Employment Attorneys at Levenfeld Pearlstein are here to help with your COVID-19 employment-related questions, and other labor and employment needs as well. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a question or concern.
Author: Becky Canary-King
With more employees working from home, whether due to their child’s school closing or concerns about contracting coronavirus, employers are navigating managing a remote workforce. Some employers may be concerned in particular about employees managing childcare duties at the same time as their work. However, employers should not treat parents working from home differently than employees who are working from home for other reasons. It is important to remember that employees cannot be treated differently because of their gender (i.e., assuming childcare falls to female employees with children) and some state and localities prohibit discrimination on the basis of parental, marital or familial status.
Below are some considerations for keeping your employees who are working from home (regardless of the reason) effective, while sustaining morale and motivation.
- Consider Flexible Hours, but Require Scheduling. If work does not need to be done at a particular time, consider allowing more flexibility. For parents dealing with managing remote learning, alternative work schedules may allow them to set aside windows of time when they know that they can focus. However, if utilizing flexible hours, proper scheduling and timekeeping are critical. Non-exempt employees should be reminded that they still must record all hours worked (and all breaks taken) accurately, and receive authorization prior to working overtime.
- Keep Connected, But Respect Boundaries. Employers are utilizing creative ways and technologies to keep in touch with employees remotely. Consistent contact encourages accountability and maintains lines of communication for employees to voice issues, concerns, or to ask for help. But some employees find receiving an unscheduled video call at home more invasive than if their manager stopped by their office, particularly if they are concerned about their appearance on a call. Consider scheduling calls in advance, or contacting employees a few minutes ahead of time before video conferencing them at home.
- Set a Check-In. It is important to set a check-in with your employee to see how working from home is going, and make adjustments if necessary. Of course, employees should be given reasonable notice if there will be a change in their arrangement. Remember that work-from-home arrangements are not necessarily set in stone. You should leave room to amend or adjust work arrangements if performance concerns arise of work product declines, consistent with legal requirements.
For more on employee engagement while working remotely, read LP’s Experience & Engagement Manager’s tips on maintaining employee morale.
Answered by Becky Canary-King
Generally, employees should be required to wear a mask at all times at work when social distancing is not possible. Depending on your state and type of business, you may be required to mandate that employees wear a mask at all times. Given the importance of masks to the health and safety of the workplace, employers should strictly enforce these requirements like they would other safety rules, including disciplining employees who fail to comply.
That said, employers have an obligation to consider reasonable accommodations for employees who indicated that they are not able to wear a mask due to an underlying medical condition or sincerely-held religious belief. Potential accommodations may include alternative face coverings, allowing work-from-home, or job restructuring if the employee is in a public-facing position. Whether or not such accommodations are reasonable (and thus required) depends on the particular facts and circumstances.
Author: Russell Shapiro
Following the sudden shift to a remote workforce in the spring, the accounting firm world was shaken – like many industries and businesses. To better understand the “state of affairs” for accounting firms, I recently interviewed a dozen highly respected accounting firm managing partners on a variety of issues, including current challenges and how they are measuring employee morale and engagement. After these interviews were conducted, I gathered their feedback and insight to help business leaders who might be facing similar challenges learn from each other.
When asked how they were measuring employee morale and engagement, many firms said they use surveys and some of those firms use software tools to evaluate the surveys and measure changes over time and differences among groups. Most firms are having firm-wide and departmental meetings. Individual check-ins are done by all the firms, and one firm is finding ways to play games and have live contests.
The following are some of their responses:
- We use Office Vibe. It is an engagement survey and we get a lot of data from it. It takes a while to get benchmarking. We have found that this tool also helps with merger integration. We have town hall meetings. Also, every person in a supervisory capacity has to get on the phone and ask what his/her people need. We have found that people have very different needs. We have found that morale is strained in certain areas and good in other areas.
- We use the software tool Glint to measure employee engagement. We have been doing this for a few years and have a baseline, including by different groups of employees. One thing we found out was that we were smothering people with meetings and this was detracting from morale. We also use IA tools to measure sentiment by evaluating wording used in responses to open-ended survey questions.
- Reaching out on a one-on-one basis to assess needs. Some people are thriving, and some people are struggling.
- We are having all firm meetings every other week. We are bringing in a comedian. We have played games. We have held raffles. We have created other ways for people to get together.
- Town halls and ad hoc calls. We have also used surveys. The surveys have shown us that most people do not want to go back to the office to socialize. It is hard to get honest feedback.
- Weekly reporting on those who are vulnerable – goes straight up the managing partner. Leads report up and are in constant touch with people.
- We tried surveys. I find them frustrating when they are anonymous. I find that we end up chasing complaints of a few. We are having partners call people.
You can read the full survey and additional responses here.
Levenfeld Pearlstein is the law firm for accounting firms and the people who run them. Partner Russell Shapiro is a leader in advising on the legal and business aspects of accounting firm partnership agreements, mergers and acquisitions, and the enforcement of restrictive covenants. He has twice been recognized by Accounting Today magazine among the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting.
You may also be interested in reading our article on best practices for engaging a remote workforce.
Answered by Eileen Sethna
If you are a commercial tenant whose storefront or property sustained damage, there are several things you should be doing. First, you should notify the police in order to complete a police report (describing the date/time and nature of the damage, including what if anything was removed without authorization), and keep in mind that such a report is often a condition to the filing of an insurance claim.
Second, you should notify your landlord and/or property manager to assist in (or otherwise authorize) initiating the boarding and securing of any broken window panes, doors, locks, etc. (but check your lease as the responsibility for such work may vary).
Third, you should initiate a claim with your insurance carrier so you understand how and what coverage you’ll have for the expenses to be incurred in the repair, remediation, and restocking.
Fourth, you should revisit your security policy and protocol to determine whether reinforced glass or other security measures are a prudent investment.
Answered by Adam Kahn
Large gatherings in condo buildings are problematic because they pose a potential risk of spreading coronavirus. Mayor Lightfoot has sought to address this issue for Chicago condominiums by imposing an additional restriction effective at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 24, 2020, that “Residential property managers will be asked to limit guest entry to five per unit to avoid indoor gatherings and parties.” (link here). While enforcement of this new restriction may prove difficult, linked is a list of practical strategies for limiting large gatherings in condo buildings:
- Adopt Temporary Policies or Rules to Limit Guests. Temporary policies or rules can be adopted by the condo board to restrict the number of guests permitted in a unit and in any common element amenities such as sun decks. Condo boards can adopt a policy via board vote at a board meeting. Adopting a rule requires a few extra steps (a unit owner’s meeting to discuss the proposed rule, which requires 10-30 days written notice and formal vote at a board meeting to adopt the rule after the unit owner’s meeting).
- Limit Gatherings in Common Element Amenities. Temporarily close or limit the number of persons in common element gathering spaces such as hospitality or party rooms. We recommend requiring that common element gathering spaces be reserved in advance to help limit traffic. Click here for relevant considerations and recommendations for reopening common element amenities during Phase IV.
- Notify Residents of Restrictions. The board or management (if professionally managed) should circulate correspondence to all residents and post signs regarding any temporary policies or rules and the directive from Mayor Lightfoot (for Chicago condominiums).
- Send Reminders, as Needed. Verbal or written reminders from the board or management (if any), as needed, are recommended to ensure compliance.
- Document Violations. Any violation of temporary policies or rules limiting guests should be documented in written complaints submitted to the board or management to determine the appropriate next step.
- Remedies for Enforcement. The board may seek to impose available remedies under applicable law and the governing documents such as fines or injunctive action. The association’s legal counsel should be contacted to determine appropriate next steps and available remedies for violations.