Montgomery County CCOC To Require Negotiation of Association Disputes

After a year-long examination of the operations of the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC), the County Council has enacted a new law which makes changes in the CCOC dispute resolution process.   More than 340,000 Montgomery County, Maryland residents live in over 1,000 condominiums, homeowners associations, and housing cooperatives.  The CCOC was created in 1991 to provide a forum for certain disputes between association residents and the board which govern the association to be resolved without going to court, and to provide educational resources for associaiton residents and leaders

Where the CCOC staff determines that there are reasonable grounds to conclude that a violation of law or association documents has occurred, the new law requires the staff to attempt to resolve disputes filed with the CCOC through informal negotiation and possibly mediation.

If the party who filed the CCOC dispute does not attend the mediation, the dispute must be dismissed.  If the party who is alleged to violation applicable law or the association documents does not attend the mediation, the matter must be set for a hearing and that party is prohibited from appearing at the hearing to present testimony and evidence. Previously, there was no requirement for active staff negotiation, and mediation was voluntary.

The new law also requires all members of the CCOC  to take the same CCOC training on community association governance which association board members are required to take, and any other training provided or approved by the County Attorney.   Additionally, volunteer arbitrators who chair CCOC hearing panels will be prohibited from representing any parties in disputes before other hearing panels.

Separately, the annual community association registration fee was increased from $3 to $5 per dwelling unit beginning July 1 to allow the CCOC to provide more staff and and educational resources. The CCOC is now part of the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

Posted by Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in  Maryland Counties of  Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, and Frederick County; and in Washington, D.C.

 

Board Training Required for Condo and HOA Association Directors

Mid-way through 2016, hundreds of directors of condos, HOAs and coops in Montgomery County, Maryland have successfully completed the online training program now required by County law for directors elected, re-elected or appointed since January 1.  The training program, Community Governance Fundamentals, is provided by the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC).

The required education program is intended to promote more knowledgeable and responsible management of common ownership communities.  Topics include the roles and responsibilities of board members and homeowners, community governing documents, financial management, meeting procedures, and covenant and rule enforcement procedures.

The online training takes about 2 hours to complete, may be taken in phases over time, is interactive and includes short quizzes which must be passed to move on to the next section.  The program is also offered in a live format by community association attorneys and managers in conjunction with the Community Associations Institute.

A director who does not complete the training is not prohibited from continuing to serve on the board.  However, a CCOC dispute resolution panel may consider failure to complete the training in deciding a dispute between the association and a homeowner.

There are more than 1,000 common ownership communities in Montgomery County, which include over 130,000 dwelling units and 5,000 board members.

Posted by:  Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for Maryland condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County and Frederick County.

Montgomery Commission on Common Ownership Communities Under Review

Changes to the operation, composition and dispute resolution process of the Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) are under review by the Montgomery County Council.

Since 1991, the CCOC has been an information resource for residents and leaders of condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Montgomery County, Maryland.  And, its mediation and arbitration program has offered a way of resolving disputes between homeowners and associations regarding matters such as association governance procedures, owner architectural changes, and the authority of the association board of directors.

Montgomery County has experienced significant growth in common ownership communities in the 25 years since the CCOC was established.  There are currently over 1,000 condominium, homeowners association, and co-operative communities with approximately 340,000 residents.

Legislation proposed by the County Executive would require mediation of certain disputes regarding common ownership communities and would require that all members of a dispute resolution hearing panel be members of the CCOC.  Currently, mediation is voluntary and the hearing panels are chaired by an attorney volunteer who is not a member of the CCOC.

Additionally, the proposed legislation (County Council Bill No. 50-15)  would change the composition for the CCOC membership to include 5 members of the public who are not owners or residents in a common ownership community or affiliated with professions associated with these communities.  Currently, the 15-member Commission is comprised of 8 members who are owners or residents and 7 members who are members of professions associated with common ownership communities (such as managers, attorneys, real estate agents, and developers).  The bill would also change the government agency responsible for providing staff and other support from the Office of Consumer Protection to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

The County Executive requested these changes in response to a report of the Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight regarding CCOC operations and a ruling of the County Ethics Commission regarding volunteer attorney hearing panel chairs who represent associations or homeowners before the CCOC for compensation on other matters.

The CCOC opposes the legislation and instead proposes that a work group which includes CCOC members be convened to provide recommendations to the County Executive and County Council before any statutory changes  are made.

Posted by: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC, attorneys for condominiums, homeowner associations, and housing cooperatives in Maryland and Washington, D.C.

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Montgomery County Board Training on Track for 2016

by Tom Schild

Condo, co-op and HOA board members in Montgomery County, Maryland will soon be required by a new County law to take a  class on the responsibilities of serving on the board of directors.

Touted as the first law in the United States to mandate training for community association board members, the requirement applies to any director elected or appointed  beginning in January 2016.  Directors are required to take—and pass– the training class within 90 days of being elected or appointed to the board of a condominium, housing co-op or homeowners association.

The Montgomery County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC) has developed a free, online training program for directors and others who wish to take it.  According to the CCOC, it will be take about 2 hours to complete, can be taken in steps over time, will be interactive, and will include short quizzes which must be passed in order to move to the next section.

The training program is based on both Montgomery County and Maryland laws, and will include “best practices” for association management..

A director who does not complete the training program is not prevented from continuing to serve on the board..  However, a CCOC dispute resolution panel may consider failure to complete the training  in deciding a dispute between an association and an owner.  And, the CCOC may take legal action to enforce the new training requirement.

POSTED BY: Thomas Schild Law Group, LLC

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