Dear RB Clients:
Those in Montgomery County should be aware of a pending law that if adopted will significantly impact the County Commission on Common Ownership Communities (CCOC); as those who live in or manage community associations in Montgomery County (or the City of Rockville) know, the CCOC was created over two decades ago. The primary purposes of the CCOC was to provide educational resources for community associations and to provide alternative resolution of community association disputes.
By most measures, the CCOC has been successful in helping resolve disputes and in providing education for community leaders, managers and professionals. While some have criticized some aspects of the dispute resolution procedures or that the CCOC sometimes exceeds its jurisdictional charter mandates, by and large we have found the CCOC to be a positive force for community association leaders and residents in Montgomery County.
The County is considering a Bill 50-15 http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/bill/2015/Packets/20160121_1.pdf which is one of the most significant overhauls of the CCOC structure in years. Among the most significant changes:
-requiring that up to 5 members of the 15 person CCOC be composed of residents that do not live in community associations and who are not current or past board members of such associations.
-require mandatory mediation of all disputes (this is in addition to mandatory hearings before the CCOC of the actual dispute).
In connection with the proposed requirement that a third of the CCOC be composed of residents that do not live in, or have not served on a board of a community association, we believe this change is unnecessary and counterproductive. Residents who live in, or have serve on their community Board of Directors, are exactly the type of informed members that have served the CCOC so well. Finding applicable candidates may in itself prove difficult (to impossible) in a County in which so many residents live in community associations, or have served as leaders, but more alarming is that such members will not have the knowledge and experiential base that has proven so beneficial and important.
As to making pre-hearing mediation mandatory, we also believe that this is an unnecessary requirement that adds additional costs and time to the dispute resolution process. Most associations that we represent that have been involved in a complaint filed with the CCOC, already choose to participate in voluntary mediation. But there are instances where the complaints are so generalized or far-reaching that participation in mediation (and the time and cost investment) is simply not justified. In addition, the Council changed the law in 2014 (Bill 19-13) to make it much harder for a community association to recover its costs and legal fees in bringing or defending a complaint filed with the CCOC. As a result, mandatory mediation will add yet another potential level of unrecovered expenses.
As a result, we believe that the County Council should establish a working group of stakeholders to review the proposed changes in greater detail and to see if there are alternatives available to address the concerns. Please contact your Council representative from the list below and urge them to defer any vote on Bill 50-15 until further study can be undertaken. IT IS IMPERATIVE THAT YOU SEND YOUR EMAILS BY MARCH 10, 2016.
Click hereto send an email to all of the Council members.
Please contact the undersigned or any of the community association attorneys at Rees Broome if you have any questions.
Rees Broome, PC
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