RD525 - Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman - Annual Report 2016-2017

Executive Summary:

In 2008, the General Assembly created the Office of the Common Interest Community Ombudsman (“Office"), and the Common Interest Community Board (“CICB"), at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (“DPOR"). In accordance with statutory requirements, this document reports on the activities of the Office for the period from November 26, 2016, through November 25, 2017.

Amendments to the Ombudsman Regulations (“Regulations") became effective May 1, 2017. The Regulations, which govern the Office’s operations as well as community association complaint processes, now require a delinquent association filing for registration first to certify adoption of a written complaint procedure. Although difficulties persist in ensuring that all associations have complaint procedures in place as the law requires, generally the Office is successful in working with non-compliant associations to help them understand not only the legal requirement for a complaint procedure, but also what the procedure should contain. It remains extraordinarily rare for an association to refuse to adopt a complaint process once it understands the requirement to do so.

The Office continues to educate constituents about the proper method for submitting Notices of Final Adverse Decision (NFADs), but nevertheless receives filings from individuals who have never contacted the Office and who are insufficiently knowledgeable about the process. The overall number decreased when compared to last year, due in part to the fact that many submissions were so deficient—either in terms of documents excluded from the filing, or the incomplete complaint process preceding the filing—that the Office could not categorize them as NFADs nor accept them and returned them to the filer.

The Office referred no associations for investigation or enforcement action this year, suggesting the ombudsman model is working as intended. In all cases, associations were brought into compliance through education, guidance, and constant reminders of the applicability of common interest community laws and regulations. The goal of an ombudsman is to resolve conflict, and the fact that so many of the complaints and NFADs received by this Office are ultimately resolved without ever having to go through an enforcement process shows that the work of educating and guiding constituents daily is of enormous benefit.