OMBUDSMAN'S ANNUAL REPORT-ELECTRONIC COPY
Read or download a copy of the Ombudsman's 2015 Annual Report, available here.
- A Message from the Ombudsman
- Inquiries and Complaints Handled by the Office
- Concerns Expressed To the Ombudsman
- Legal developments Impacting Common Interest Communities
- Recommendations for Changes to Delaware Law
- Advisory Council Duties and Committees
- Appendix of Forms Including:
- Common Interest Community Ombudsperson Act
- Procedure for Filing a Complaint
- Template for Internal Dispute Resolution Process (IDR)
- Common Interest Community Contact/Complaint Form
- Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Procedures and Forms
- Template Fair Elections Procedure
- Template Bylaw for Notice to HOA before Utility Shut off
- Advisory Council Members
JOINT HOA BOARD LEADERSHIP WORKSHOP RECOGNIZED BY AWARD
In September, 2015 the Delaware Valley Chapter of Community Associations Institute (CAI) in cooperation with the Department of Justice’s Office of Common Interest Community Ombudsperson jointly presented a Leadership Workshop to a sold-out audience in Wilmington, Delaware. Tony Campisi is a Common Interest Community Advisory Council member and Executive Director of the Delaware Valley Chapter of CAI. Tony reports that Chapter received a “Chapter Achievement Award” at CAI's Annual Conference and Exposition in Orlando, Florida. The award recognizes the success of the partnership with the Office of Common Interest Community Ombudsperson for the joint effort to host the “Board Leadership Development Program.” Reported (in three locations) in the May/June 2016 issue of Community Assets, magazine.
INDICTED TREASURER AND HER HUSBAND PLED GUILTY TO THEFT AND CONSPIRACY
As a result of the Ombudsman’s investigation and referral, a Grand Jury indicted a homeowners' association Secretary/Treasurer and her husband, a director of the HOA, for theft and conspiracy to steal $20,000+ of HOA funds over a three-year period.
On March 21, 2016, the Secretary, Jessica McGinnis pled guilty to three felony counts of theft and conspiracy for stealing money paid by community residents for maintenance of common areas. The Court ordered a presentence investigation. In May, the Court sentenced her to spend weekends in jail, to pay restitution to the community and other conditions.
In June, David McGinnis also pled guilty to three felony charges. The Court sentenced him to pay more than $20,000 as restitution to the HOA, jointly with his wife, and other conditions.
The link to article that appeared in the News Journal is available here.
ARTICLE ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSPERSON
New article discussing the Office of Common Interest Community Ombudsperson:
Stump, Jessica, "The Office of the Ombudsperson for the Common Interest Community - Reaching Solutions Together" Synergy, University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration, Conflict Resolution Program. The link to read the article is available here: http://www.ipa.udel.edu/crp/synergy/spotlight.html
NEW CASTLE COUNTY ORDINANCE ALLOWS COMMON INTEREST COMMUNITIES AND CIVIC ASSOCIATIONS TO RECORD GOVERNING DOCUMENTS WITHOUT CHARGE
New Castle County passed this ordinance in May, and in June proposed to the General Assembly, that the State not collect its portion of recording fees if a County also removes its fees for recording HOA documents. It passed both houses of the General Assembly and is waiting for the Governor’s signature. Kent and Sussex Counties are looking into similar county ordinances.
The DUCIOA (Delaware Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act) requires bylaws to be recorded by the County Recorder of Deeds, and if pre-existing communities change or take any action on their bylaws, these should be recorded. Recording bylaws prevents trouble witnessed by the Ombudsperson when a community never recorded bylaws, or never received bylaws from a developer, or lost its bylaws. Bylaws should also be reviewed and updated every few years to take advantage of new changes in the law (some are discussed below) and changed circumstances. The ordinance makes it less expensive for smaller and self-governed communities to improve and modernize their bylaws.
OMBUDSPERSON’S ACT REQUIRES ALL ASSOCIATION BOARDS TO PROVIDE "INTERNAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION"
The Common Interest Community Ombudsman has the duty "(8) To establish a template of reasonable written procedures for the executive board of a common interest community Association to adopt to internally handle complaints from unit owners and other interested parties each common interest community Association shall adhere to the established written procedures when resolving complaints from unit owners and other interested parties." 29 Del. C. §2544. Consider tailoring this process to your community and adopting it when you next review your community’s bylaws. Here is a link to the Ombudsman’s "Template Internal Dispute Resolution Process."
LAW ALLOWS PRE-EXISTING HOA’S TO ADOPT ALL OR SOME OF DUCIOA
- Senate Bill 5-The Benjamin Kuntz Act: The Governor signed the Benjamin Kuntz Act in July, 2015. This amended the DUCIOA section on applicability to preexisting communities. It now explicitly allows "any preexisting common interest community" to amend its governing documents to comply with any or all of the requirements of the DUCIOA, or a community can select particular sections to apply, without adopting the entire law. The copy of the DUCIOA on this website incorporates the new Act into its proper place at the end of Section 81-119. Click on the "Useful Links" to "Important Statutes," select the DUCIOA then Section 81-119 see the new language at the end of that section.
UTILITIES SHUT OFF PROBLEMS ADDRESSED BY NEW LAW
On September 3, 2015, the Governor signed into law a bill aimed at helping common interest communities, including condominiums, cooperatives, and deed restricted subdivisions.
When a homeowner fails to pay a utility bill, the utility has a right to turn off service such as water or electricity. That can result in major damage to a home and other property. For example, if electricity is cut off during the winter and a home remains unheated, water lines can freeze, burst, and flood the property. That may cause tremendous damage to the home and even adjacent homes. This law requires utility companies to have a “third party notification system.” It allows a customer to name a person who will also receive notice before the utility cuts off service.
The law allows common interest communities, to adopt bylaws requiring homeowners to name the HOA to receive notice before cutting off utility service. The HOA can notify the homeowner, or make other arrangements.
Finally, this law requires the Common Interest Community Ombudsman to prepare a bylaw that an HOA can use to require homeowners to name the HOA as a third-party to receive notice that service will be cut off.
Available HERE is a form-bylaw HOAs can adopt to take advantage of this new law.
DOES YOUR BOARD NEED A MENTOR?
Are You Willing To Be A Mentor To Board That Needs Your Help?
A mentor from outside a board can make a big difference in a board having trouble communicating with its association members; collecting assessments; receiving complaints about not following the bylaws; meeting quorums; or recruiting volunteers for committees or the board. If you need a mentor who can provide you or your board with practical advice based on long experience, or if you can be a mentor, send us an email and we will try to connect you.
- ADD YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO OUR LIST TO RECEIVE INFORMATION ABOUT TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES AND OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS. CIC.OMBUDSMANDOJ@STATE.DE.US AND GIVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS.
- TO REQUEST THE OMBUDSMAN TO MAKE A PRESENTATION ABOUT THE OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSPERSON TO YOUR ORGANIZATION EMAIL: CIC.OMBUDSMANDOJ@STATE.DE.US AND ASK.