The new year ushered in fresh starts, clean slates and new laws.
Here is a rundown on recent legislation that pertains to Illinois community associations. Unless otherwise noted, they became effective Jan. 1.
Solar and wind power. The Illinois Condominium Property Act grants associations the power to install solar energy systems and wind energy devices on common elements. They also can lease or license someone else to do it. The installation cannot adversely affect either the common elements or the owners. If the installation will be on limited common elements, owners who are entitled to use them must consent.
"The trend is toward giving boards the ability and options to do things that are most cost-effective and to protect the environment," said association attorney Gabriella Comstock of Keough & Moody P.C. in Naperville.
Amendments. The condo act sets a maximum of 75 percent of owners to approve most amendments to an association's governing documents.
"There are some older declarations that say any change requires 80 percent or even 100 percent approval," said association attorney Michael Kim, of Chicago. "Those are no longer effective."
But if other sections of the condo act require a higher percentage for particular types of amendments, those provisions apply, he said.
Contracts with friends and family. The Common Interest Community Association Act prohibits associations from entering into contracts with board members, their immediate family members or companies in which they own a 25 percent or more interest unless prior notice is given to the owners.
Owners have a right to petition for a referendum on those proposed contracts.
As of Aug. 9, 2013, the definition of "immediate family member" was expanded to include siblings along with spouses, parents and children.
Entering into such contracts can be beneficial to the association, but these amendments allow owners to know who the board is doing business with, Comstock said.
Licensing. The Community Association Manager Licensing and Disciplinary Act requires association management firms to be licensed as well as individual practitioners.
Management firms also must designate a "supervising community association manager" who oversees the firm and client funds. Supervising managers must have a separate license. To qualify, they must earn education and examination credits beyond those required of nonsupervising managers.
The additional licenses will provide associations with more layers of protection and oversight, said Beth Lloyd, chairman of the Community Association Manager Licensing and Disciplinary Board and a Schaumburg real estate agent.
"This is similar to the real estate profession," she said. "The salespeople, the managing broker and the company are all licensed."
Although the legislation has passed, the new licenses won't be available until 12 months after the final rules and procedures to implement them have been adopted by the legislature.
Another change to the licensing act removes the annual fee that associations were charged to support the legislation.
Other laws were proposed but did not pass. Among them are bills that enhanced the rights of a tenant after a foreclosure case, prevented associations from interpreting their governing documents as prohibiting day care centers in homes unless specifically prohibited in their governing documents, and increased the amount of delinquent assessments an association could recover after a foreclosure sale.
What's on the horizon for this year?
Kim expects the issue of assessments recovery in foreclosure sales to return. The ability to vote and send meeting notices via email might come up.
"There are probably situations, depending on what happens in the courts, that could affect what associations can look for in terms of legislation," Kim said.
"It's a fine line with email," Comstock said. "People have to be careful not to put together this legislation so that it appears to negate other provisions of the condo act, like open board meetings. I think changes will happen, but I would be surprised if we see it in 2014."