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Condo board members beware

Tom Jackson • Feb 16, 2014 at 4:20 PM

A bill that would impose criminal penalties on condo board members who don’t properly post meetings or file paperwork is drawing fire from critics who say it is an example of government overreach.

State Rep. Cheryl Grossman, R-Grove City, says she introduced House Bill 371 after hearing stories about bad condo boards from her constituents. Grossman said oversight and transparency is needed to deal with such situations.

Among other provisions, the House Bill 371 would require condo board members to register with the Division of Real Estate, open their meetings to all unit owners, post all meeting times in advance in common areas and websites and require certain records to be kept.

Violating provisions of the law would make condo board members guilty of a third degree misdemeanor.

Jerry Fraley, president of the Hunters Glen Condo Association in Norwalk, and Darcy Mehling Good, an attorney with Kaman and Cusimano who works with condo associations, said Tuesday they are particularly concerned about the criminal penalties.

Good noted that existing laws ban condo board members from stealing money and said she’s never heard of the boards of any other nonprofits being subject to criminal penalties for paperwork violations such as failing to post a meeting five days in advance.

“This would be charting new territory,” she said. “It’s big government at its worst”

Fraley said it’s already difficult to recruit good people who will volunteer their time to serve on a condo board.

“Who are you going to get to open yourself to criminal prosecution?” he said. “Not me. I’m gone”

Good said Erie County has about 50 condo and homeowners associations and estimates about 75 percent are condo groups. Ottawa County has close to 100 associations, with condo accounting for about 90 percent, she estimated.

Other provisions of the bill show evidence of hasty drafting, Good said.

“The board members I’m hearing from are telling me they want to start over” she said.

Grossman’s bill, introduced in December, has been assigned to the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee.

Grossman said she introduced the bill after being approached by constituents having problems with their condo boards or condo managers.

In some situations, they’ve taken fees and bought vehicles, she said.

There are times when regular maintenance hasn’t been carried out, Grossman said.

“I’ve seen pictures of privacy fences leaning, painting that hasn’t been carried out” she said.

Grossman said she is listening to suggestions and doubts that her bill will even emerge from committee by May.

“I am in no hurry on this,” she said. She said she wants “a final product that is fair and reasonable for all”

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