Ohio has two statutes that govern its community associations: the Condominium Act (ORC 5311) and the Planned Community Act, which governs homeowner associations and other residential non-condominium communities (ORC 5312). The Ohio Condominium Act was initially in enacted in 1963, updated in 1978 to provide consumer protection provisions, amended substantially in 2004 to better define association operations, particularly the rights and responsibilities of owners and boards, and then modified slightly in 2017 to extend protections for displaying the US Flag to blue and gold star banners and other service flags in honor of our armed forces. The Planned Community Act, which was drafted to mirror many of the provisions in the 2004 amendments to the Condominium Act, became law in 2010. Since then, however, some of the differences in the two laws have led to issues in interpretation and confusion in application, and both laws needed to be modernized, especially to reflect the use of electronic communications and other advances in technology. The result is the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 61.
SB 61 is a product of 3 years’ worth of working with the primary sponsor, Sen. Blessing, after he initially introduced a bill in early 2019 that would have significantly limited associations’ ability to regulate the installation of alternative energy sources, particularly solar panels. As a long-serving member of Ohio’s Community Associations Legislative Action Committee, Partner Darcy Mehling Good met with him to address the significant concerns and suggest working together to introduce legislation to provide a framework for owners to install solar panels without sacrificing the associations’ ability to protect the common elements, along with a number of other changes to improve and modernize both ORC 5311. Sen. Blessing was very receptive to these suggestions and tasked his staff with incorporating the requests into a new bill, which was passed unanimously by the Senate in December, 2020, but ran out of time to be considered in the House. Sen. Blessing then reached across the aisle to gain the support of Sen. Antonio as a co-sponsor and reintroduced the bill as SB 61 in February 2021.
Despite strong partisan divisions on many other issues in Columbus, SB 61 attracted overwhelming bi-partisan support as it went through the legislative process, picking up 7 more co-sponsors in the Senate and 23 in the House. After the Ohio Senate approved SB 61 in January 2022, it moved quickly through the House with a few amendments, and passed on the House floor on May 25, 2022, before returning to the Senate on June 1, 2022, for consideration of the amended version, which passed unanimously (32-0). Then, on June 14, 2022, Governor DeWine signed SB 61 into law, making it effective 90 days later: September, 11, 2022.
SB 61 updates several important provisions of Ohio’s community association laws, such as board qualifications, reserves, and insurance, that have not been touched in over a decade. The new law also addresses the board’s authority to send different notices electronically, regulate solar panels, limit record requests, and remove outdated language that may be discriminatory. While new challenges and opportunities will undoubtedly arise, SB 61 serves to correct deficiencies from the past and position Ohio’s Condominium and Community Associations to address many issues in the future.
Kaman & Cusimano clients can log into ATLAS for additional information, including an article about the benefits of SB61, recommendations, and virtual seminar presentation registration.