The New Section 19 Requirements For Document And Information Disclosures

November 10, 2017

Arguably, one of the most controversial Illinois Condominium Property Act (“Act”) amendments effective January 1st deals with inspection of association books and records.  The legislature's intent with the Section 19 revisions was well-intentioned, but the effects are burdensome.  In sum, the revisions to Section 19 of the Act include:

  1. Reduction of the time frame for associations to make records available from 30 calendar or business days (depending on the records sought) down to 10 business days for all records;
  2. Elimination of the "proper purpose" requirement that unit owners previously had to state for requesting certain association records;
  3. Expansion of the information that must be provided to a unit owner to include unit owner e-mail addresses and telephone numbers (in addition to the name, addresses and percentage of ownership that was already required); and 
  4. Expansion of the records to be made available from “books and records of account” (narrowly interpreted as accounting records) to “books and records, including itemized detailed records of all receipts and expenditures and accounts” (which is much broader than the current language).

The two issues that are continually asked as a result of the adopted Section 19 revisions are:

A.    How should an association proceed if it believes it cannot comply with the 10 business day delivery due to an enormous request (i.e., such as requesting 10 years' worth of every book and record paper in the association)?

B.    Can unit owners opt-out of providing their e-mail addresses and telephone numbers to the association or can the association refuse to give out such information?

With regard to the 10 business day delivery timeframe, we recommend management companies and boards use their best efforts to comply with the new deadline.  We believe it unlikely a court would sanction an association if the board or manager complies in good faith by responding to the document request within 10 business days by making available whatever documents it can reasonably pull together and also provide a realistic timeline for producing the remainder of the documents the unit owner has requested. 

For all those managers and boards whose blood pressure is steadily rising at the thought of some particular resident taking advantage of the information requests, Section 19 still allows the board to assess the costs of retrieving and making the requested records available to the requesting unit owner.  Thus, if the board has to go to the association's accountant and have him/her pull the records, the cost of the accountant's time to gather that information can be charged back to the requesting unit owner. 

With regard to a unit owner demanding the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers of all association members, the new statutory revision mandates that associations maintain such information and make it available for inspection upon unit owner request without having to state a proper purpose.  Therefore, (i) the association must request such information from unit owners if it does not already have it and (ii) there is no legal basis for unit owners to opt-out of such a disclosure.  However, at the same time, associations are encouraged to solicit from unit owners the e-mail addresses and telephone numbers unit owners would like to designate for purposes of the revised Section 19 (such as a new email address or cell/work phone number), which gives some degree control to the unit owners of the information to be disclosed.  Be aware that short of unit owners designating an e-mail address and telephone number for such disclosure, the association must provide the e-mail address and telephone numbers it has on file.

While certainly not a panacea for those unit owners who value their privacy and are angered by the fact their email address and telephone numbers will be made available to all unit owners, the legislature did address the fear to a certain extent.  The revised Section 19 states that the board may require the requesting unit owner to certify, in writing, that such information and documents will not be used for a “commercial purpose”, which is defined in the new Section 19(d-5) as “for sale, resale, or solicitation or advertisement for sales or services.”  The revised language also expressly allows a board to levy fines against any unit owner who falsely certifies the non-commercial purpose written confirmation.

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