Attention all homeowners’ and large condominium associations; be sure to review the recently adopted Wis. Stat. §182.01(7) and §710.18, regarding regulation and notice filing requirements for residential lot homeowners’ associations, and Wis. Stat. §703.20(1r) requiring large condominium associations to maintain a website for the condominium association, for items to add to your New Year’s to-do list.
Homeowners’ Associations of Residential Lots
Under Wis. Stat. §182.01(7) and §710.18, homeowners’ associations of residential lots (“HOAs”) are now required to file public notices once a year with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (“WDFI”) containing general governance and contact information for the HOA which will be searchable on the WDFI website. Existing HOAs must have completed the Homeowners’ Association Initial Notice – Online Form, which can be found here or on the WDFI website at www.wdfi.org, to avoid the new statute’s penalties. Failure to file this report results in an HOA losing its ability to charge late fees or fines for unpaid assessments against individual lots and losing the HOA’s ability to charge fees in connection with the sale or transfer of ownership of a residential lot, until the HOA completes the filing. HOAs created after March 20, 2022, have 30 days after the creation of the HOA to file the initial notice form.
The following information, along with a $25 registration fee, is required to complete the initial notice and any amendment or annual renewal forms:
- Name and mailing address of the HOA;
- HOA website address (if applicable);
- Name, mailing address, and email address or daytime telephone number for a person authorized to respond on behalf of any HOA requests for copies of the covenants and restrictions and other information and documentation related to the subdivision;
- Name of the management company (if applicable); and
- Name of the county and municipality where the community is located which is managed by the HOA.
If any information contained in this notice is changed during the year, the HOA must file an amended notice no later than 30 days after the date on which the change occurs.
If the HOA manages or enforces covenants and restrictions, those must be recorded in the Register of Deed’s Office, which is usually the case. This new law also says that if the HOA maintains an internet site, the covenants and restrictions must also be posted on the internet site. The new law also limits the amount of fees that can be charged for providing copies of the covenants, or a payoff letter, sets procedures and time limits for responding to requests for payoff letters, procedures for HOAs to change their fees, and requires notifying a lot owner of default before taking any enforcement action.
Lastly, the new law requires the HOA to send notices of HOA meetings, at least 48 hours before the meeting. Notices are to be sent in the way required by the covenants, or, if the covenants are silent, by written notice to all lot owners, and email notices to the lot owners’ last known email address, and by 1st class mail, and if the HOA maintains an internet site, by posting notice of the meeting on that site, and if the HOA mains an improved area in the subdivision, by posting the notice there. Notice the law requires using all of these notice methods.
The new statewide filing system was to be up and running on January 1 of 2023.
Note that in some cases, the provisions of the new laws can be overridden by language in the covenants, so new associations should consider creating an internet site, and allowing notice by email, to avoid some of the more difficult notice requirement in the new law.
This new law expressly does NOT include condominium associations.
The Homeowners’ Association Search can be found here.
Large Condominium Association Requirement to Maintain Internet Sites.
In a similar effort to update the condominium law to current communication methods, a new law requires all large condominium associations, beginning on April 1, 2023, to create and maintain a website for the condominium association to provide certain information. Wis. Stat. §703.20(1r) defines a “large association” as an association for a condominium containing 100 or more units. These large condominium associations are now required to maintain an internet site that satisfies all of the following criteria:
- The site must be owned and operated by the association, or operated by a 3rd party provider with particular contractual requirements to operate an internet site dedicated to that association’s activities.
- The site must be accessible through the internet, in a location that is password protected, and available to all unit owners and employees of the association, but not to the general public.
- The association must post on that site a current copy of all of all records, notices, and documents the unit owners are entitled to inspect under the inspection part of the condominium law, which is Wis. Stat. §703.20(1g)(a).
- Upon a unit owner’s written request, the association must provide a username and password.
Note that the new law does not distinguish between a residential condominium unit, parking unit or storage unit, so those units would potentially need to be counted in deciding whether the new law affects a particular association. Expandable condominiums would only need to count the units that are currently declared and in existence.
Some large condominium associations already use secure portals of this type to provide notices to unit owners, send bills and collect payments, but the Declaration and Bylaws of a condominium association may need to be amended to allow this method of delivery of “official” notices. Developers of new condominiums that could potentially fall under this “large association” definition should draft the Declaration and Bylaws to be consistent with this new law and to streamline notice and recordkeeping duties.
If you need more information about either of these new laws, please contact Brittani Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Michelle Ebben at email@example.com, and we would be happy to assist you.