Consumer Services Division

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Monday - Friday

TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway, Suite 433
Fairfax, VA 22030

Rebecca Makely,
Division Director

eNewsletter Fall 2017

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Fall 2017

In this Issue:

Choosing a Charity

In the wake of so many natural disasters like Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Harvey, and the recent attack in Las Vegas, many Americans turn to charities to offer assistance. However, charities have less than honest intentions and may be fraudulent. Some charities will promise to delegate your donation to the people effected by the disaster, but the fine print or a little more in depth research will reveal they take a significant cut off the top, or the funds just don’t get to where they are supposed to be going. Here are a few tips on how to evaluate charities:

o   Ask if the charity is designated as tax exempt by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS maintains a list of all organizations registered as charities. This means they have proven themselves as a charity that does what they say they are going to do with donations. You could also check with your state’s attorney general or charities bureau, which is responsible for policing charities within the state and can provide information on them.

o   Ask if your donation is tax deductible. Some nonprofit organizations that solicit gifts are not charities and you will not be able to deduct your donation when you file your taxes. This is a red flag.

o   Chose a charity that defines its mission and programs clearly with measurable goals and uses concrete criteria to describe its achievements. A reputable organization will have this information readily available.

o   Don’t be afraid to ask questions: How will my gift be spent? How many people did you help last year? In what way?

o   Be wary of charities that seem to have popped up overnight. They may make you believe your donation will be going to people affected, but they may not have the proper infrastructure to do so.

o   Avoid charities that will not share information with you.

o   Avoid charities that use high pressure tactics to get a donation from you.

o   Find out about the “cut.” Even if the charity is a good one, you might be disappointed to find out your donation went to the general administration fees to run the charity.

o   Consider where your money is going. Hospitals and universities bring in millions of dollars every year because they are popular charities, while legitimate homeless shelters and soup kitchens struggle to bring in any funds. Depending on what cause you are trying to support, you may want to consider donating to local aid.

o   Don’t give out credit card or personal information in response to phone, email, or door to door solicitors asking for donations. These may be fraudulent!

o   If you donate online to a trusted charity, make sure the website you are donating to is the legitimate one for the charity. For example, vs. Don’t click links through emails.

o   Charities will not call you on the phone or email you asking you for donations. Sometimes you will receive an email or a phone call thanking you for your donation when you have not made one, and then ask you to make a donation.

o   Never give cash. Charities that request a cash payment and do not take a check are a red flag.

o   Watch out for charities with similar sounding names. For example, the National Red Cross vs. the American Red Cross.

If you have any questions, or for further information, visit,, and

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Your Community, You’re Connected-Association Meetings

The next episode of Your Community, You’re Connected – Association Meetings will air live on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. on Fairfax County Government Channel 16. Michelle L. Thompson of the Fairfax County Consumer Affairs Branch; Brendan Bunn, Attorney and Principal of the law firm of Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, and Bunn; and John Tsitos, Vice President of Select Community Services, will respond to live calls and emails during the hour.

To view the most recent episode of Your Community, You’re Connected – Association Insurance tune to Fairfax County Government Channel 16 on Mondays at 8:00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. You may also view the program 24/7 by Video on Demand

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Archived YCYC programs and information on the next live show can be viewed here.

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The Latest Edition of the Virginia Common Interest Community Board Newsletter is Now Available!

The Virginia Common Interest Community Board publishes a periodic newsletter to provide updates on actions by the Board, Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, and General Assembly that may impact common interest community association boards, their members and professionals who provide services to these communities. Read the latest edition of Common Interests today!

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What can the Ombudsman do?  

o    Assist members in understanding and exercising their rights in resolving issues with their common interest community associations (condominiums, property owners' associations, and cooperatives).

o    Issue non-binding explanations (not interpretations) of laws and regulations governing Associations.

o    Offer referrals to alternative dispute resolution services.

o    Assist members in using the procedures and processes available to them in their association to resolve conflicts within the community.

o    Receive complaints concerning timeshares, and refer potential violations of timeshare law or regulations to the Common Interest Community Board for further action as warranted. (View complaint form.)

o    Receive "notices of final adverse decisions" from individuals who believe an Association violated common interest community laws or regulations. Such notice must be filed on the  Board-approved form within 30 days of an Association's notice to a member of its final decision, accompanied by a $25 filing fee (required by law).  

What can't the Ombudsman do?  

o    Offer legal advice or interpretation.

o    Interpret Association documents such as governing documents, bylaws, etc.

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Visit the Homeowners’ and Condominium Association webpage for links to valuable resources such as education, publications and laws related to living and managing a common interest community.  Feel free to contact the Homeowners’ and Condominium Association Liaison at 703-222-8435 with your questions or concerns.

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