City condo owners win privacy battle

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The Chicago City Council yesterday approved an ordinance that allows condo boards to opt out of a new provision in Illinois condo law that many saw as a threat to their privacy.

“The good news is Chicago condo owners’ privacy is protected,” said Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who sponsored the ordinance. “And hopefully the state of Illinois will follow suit in the next few months” to provide the same protection to unit owners outside the city.

A change to Illinois condo law that took effect Jan. 1 requires a condo association to provide contact information—including mailing and email addresses and phone numbers—for all unit owners to any owner who requests it.

Both houses of the General Assembly were nearly unanimous in passing the legislation last year, and Gov. Bruce Rauner signed it into law in August.

Within the first few weeks of the rule taking effect, both Reilly and Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said they were inundated with complaints from condo boards and individual unit owners who were concerned about their contact information being disseminated to others in the condo association. On Jan. 17 they introduced an ordinance that provides an opt-out route for condo associations: It prohibits the release of the contact information unless at least two-thirds of the members of a homeowners association vote to follow the state rule.

That is, no condo boards in Chicago can follow the state rule without a vote to expressly opt in.

Reilly said the city ordinance may turn out to be needed only temporarily, as a bill in Springfield sponsored by state Sen. Kwame Raoul may eliminate the provision from the new bill. Raoul’s legislation, recently passed by a Senate committee, would strike email addresses and phone numbers from the list of information a condo board must provide at a member’s request.

Raoul’s staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reilly said Raoul has told him he expects the legislation to pass within the next several months, which would kill any need for the Chicago ordinance.

State Rep. Andre Thapedi (32nd), who sponsored the rule change last year, told Crain’s in January that he thought it was necessary to provide “transparency for people who share ownership of a property,” as condo owners do. But Judy Ziner, vice president for operations in the Chicago office of Liberman Management Services, which manages about 45,000 Chicago-area units, said the rule was “pretty universally disliked by our homeowners.”

Many people keep their cell phone number and email address close to the vest, Ziner said, to avoid intrusive communications. Surface mail should be adequate when one unit owner wants to contact all fellow owners, she said in January.

This week, Thapedi told Crain’s that “I’m okay with the Chicago aldermen voting with the interests of their constituents” and does not oppose deleting the requirement that phone numbers and email addresses be given out.

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