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    Heather Gillespie--Common Interest Community Ombudsman 
    Mary Broz-Vaughan--Director of Communications, Legislation & Consumer Education 

    Deadline Approaching for Community Associations

    Internal complaint process must be adopted by September 28th

    RICHMOND – The clock is ticking for common interest community associations throughout Virginia. New state regulations require association boards to draft and adopt an internal complaint process no later than September 28, 2012. 

    The new internal complaint process is intended to address complaints from association members that are related to violations of common interest community laws or regulations. Associations subject to the law include Property Owners’ Associations, Condominium Associations, and Cooperative Associations. Violations of association governing documents—such as bylaws, declarations and architectural guidelines—will continue to be resolved by the same due process methods associations currently use. 

    Common Interest Community Ombudsman Regulations went into effect on July 1, providing the details for complying with state legal requirements for resolving member and citizen complaints against associations. The 90-day grace period to allow associations to develop their own complaint procedures expires at the end of September.

    “The new regulations should help association boards and members communicate more fully and problem solve together,” said Common Interest Community Ombudsman Heather Gillespie.

    “By getting everyone on the same page,” she continued, “we hope to help avoid common areas of misunderstanding among boards and their members, and ensure compliance with the law.”

    No template or one-size-fits-all procedure is available, because each association will have a slightly different internal process based on its particular articles of incorporation, bylaws, declaration, and any other applicable governing documents. The regulations offer guidance and minimum requirements, as well as a sample complaint form, to assist associations in developing their procedures.

    Associations that do not comply with the regulations and deadlines may face disciplinary action by the Common Interest Community Board, including filing suit against the association or intervening in an existing suit, assessing monetary penalties, or issuing a cease-and-desist order.

    In 2008, the General Assembly established the Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman, as an information resource for association members, unit owners, and boards of directors. The legislature established the legal requirement for associations to develop and adhere to written procedures for resolving complaints. Associations subject to the law include Property Owners’ Associations, Condominium Associations, and Cooperative Associations.
    Complainants must follow their association’s complaint process and, if the association issues a decision contrary to what the complainant was seeking (a “final adverse decision”), the complainant may appeal to the Common Interest Community Ombudsman. Only after an association issues an adverse decision can the complainant submit the Notice of Final Adverse Decision to the Ombudsman for review.

    If the Ombudsman finds an association to be in violation of a common interest community law or regulation, and is unable to obtain compliance from the association in resolving the matter, the complaint will be referred to the Common Interest Community Board for further action. The Ombudsman decision is final and not subject to further review, but the complainant and association may always pursue legal action through the civil court system.

    The regulations and sample complaint form are available to download from the CIC Ombudsman webpage.