Filing a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsperson is a two-step process:
First, a complainant must attempt to resolve the complaint through an "internal dispute resolution process" between the homeowner and the board. Either a homeowner or an Association can start the internal dispute resolution process.
Second, if the board does not participate in an internal dispute resolution process, or if the matter is not resolved internally, a party to the process may file a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsperson.
Details of each part of the process are below:
1. Before a Complaint Can Be Filed with the Office of the Ombudsperson that Alleges a Violation Of The Law, Regulations, Or Documents Governing The Community:
- A unit owner must first attempt to resolve a common interest community complaint alleging violation of the law, regulations, or documents governing the Community through the Association's internal dispute resolution process.
- If the Community has no internal dispute resolution process it must use and follow the process outlined in the "Ombudsperson's Template for Internal Dispute Resolution,," available on the website.
- A complaint must be stated in writing on the Association’s complaint form, but if Association has none, the complaint must be stated on the form attached to the "Ombudsperson's Template for Internal Dispute Resolution." The complaint form is the last two pages of the Template.
- If a unit owner submits a complaint for IDR to the Association, the Association must participate in the IDR process in its bylaws, or the Ombudsperson’s Template for Internal Dispute Resolution.
- If the Association declines to submit the complaint to IDR, or does not respond to it in 20 days, a unit owner may file the complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman. A unit owner must allege the Association’s refusal to participate on the Ombudsperson’s Contact/Complaint Form in addition to the underlying complaint.
- If a unit owner declines to participate in IDR, the Association may proceed with any process or remedies available to it.
- A complaining party other than a unit owner should also first attempt to resolve a complaint through the association’s internal dispute procedure.
- The “Internal Dispute Resolution Complaint” is the last 2 pages of the Template Internal Dispute Resolution file. It leaves little room for a complaint, but invites additional pages.
- Please be specific and detailed in describing your complaint.
- Quote necessary parts of the community’s certificate of incorporation, declarations, bylaws, rules, regulations and statutes, to make a “roadmap” for understanding the complaint. This will assist both the board and the homeowner in understanding the governing documents and the specific complaint. It will also assist the Ombudsperson if review is required.
- Explain your complaint as if you are explaining it to someone with no familiarity with your situation.
- Start at the beginning and explain your complaint in chronological order. It is the easiest way for others to understand.
- State specifically what you want. Detail the action you are asking the board to take or the relief or result you seek from the board.
- Sign and date the complaint, and add your contact information. Check off how you delivered the complaint to the other party.
2. Filing the Complaint- Use the Ombudsperson’s “Contact/Complaint” Form:
- If the decision by the Association after following the IDR process does not resolve the issue, and the issue involves an allegation of violation or potential violation of the law or documents governing the community, a party may file the complaint for review by the Office of the Ombudsperson.
- Obtain a copy of the Office of the Ombudsperson’s “Contact/Complaint” Form. Read it before filling it out. A copy of the Contact/Complaint Form is available by contacting the Office of the Ombudsperson or downloading from or filling it out on the Ombudsperson’s Website.
- The Ombudsperson's Act requires the complaint to include the “Required Information.” It requires attaching a copy of the community's governing documents including: the certificate of incorporation; the declarations; the bylaws; and the rules and regulations of the community. Attach the complete record of the IDR complaint, including all documents presented by either party during that process. You need not provide another copy of any document in the IDR process record.
- When the Complaint Form is complete, deliver it to the Office of the Ombudsperson, by hand delivery, mail, or eMail. The address and contact information is on the form, with a check for $35 to Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsperson.
- The Contact/Complaint Form: Click here for a copy of the Contact/Complaint Form
- Must be filed with the Ombudsperson within 30 days of the final adverse decision of the Association, or the Association’s refusal to participate in internal dispute resolution (unless waived by the Ombudsperson for good cause);
- Must be completed in writing on a “Contact/Complaint Form” from the Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsperson (available at the website of the Office of the Ombudsperson or by calling the number below);
- Must include copies of any "Required Information"1 listed in the Contact/Complaint Form and all supporting documents, correspondence and other materials related to the issue and the decision, and
- Must include a check for the $35 filing fee2 attached, (unless waived by the Ombudsperson for good cause). The check should be made payable to “Department of Justice, Office of the Ombudsperson.”
- You may contact the Office of the Ombudsperson at any of the following:
Delaware Department of Justice
Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsperson
820 N. French Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Telephone: (302) 577-6499
Web site: http://attorneygeneral.delaware.gov/fraud/cpu/ombudsman.shtml
- The Office of the Ombudsperson will review the complaint and the submitted materials. If the complaint appears to be meritorious and if it is appropriate, the Ombudsperson may offer to provide meetings, mediation, arbitration or other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to the parties involved, to assist resolving the complaint. The Ombudsperson is not authorized to order anyone to do anything, unless the parties agree to binding arbitration. ADR is available only by consent of all parties.
- The Ombudsperson may further investigate a complaint, in the sole discretion of the Ombudsperson, by:
- subpoenaing witnesses;
- compelling the attendance of witnesses;
- compelling witness testimony;
- administering oath's or affirmations;
- taking evidence;
- subpoenaing books, records, papers, or other evidence needed for exercising the powers or performing the duties of the Ombudsperson.
- The Ombudsperson may again offer to provide meetings, mediation or other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution including binding or non-binding arbitration to the parties involved, to assist in resolving the complaint.
- The Ombudsperson may refer a meritorious claim of violation of existing Delaware law to others within the Department of Justice or any other appropriate law-enforcement agency, in the Ombudsperson's discretion.
- The Ombudsperson may decline further action, in the exercise of discretion, and in that event will notify the parties.
1 29 Del. C. §2545 (a)
2 29 Del. C. §2544 (15)