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Dealing With The Problem Unit Owner


July 1, 2005

Read Time

3 minutes


If you currently live in a condominium, you may know this person well. This is the resident who plays his stereo at 2 a.m. in the middle of the week. This is the neighbor whose dog barks incessantly. This is the unit owner who will not let management into his unit to do repairs affecting the entire building. Or, this may just be the owner who does not pay his or her assessments. Unfortunately, every condo association has to deal with a problem unit owner
at one time or another. So, what is the safest and most effective way to proceed?

Hopefully, a simple knock on the door or a reminder from the management company will resolve the problem. When these simple and courteous attempts fail however, the condominium board should start keeping a detailed written record of all relevant events and attempted communications. Then turn to your declarations, by-laws and rules. These documents will provide valuable guidance on handling many of these issues. For example, most declarations, by-laws, and/or rules contain provisions which address nuisances and unreasonable disturbances. Under such provisions, the board of the association can conduct a hearing. If the board ultimately determines that an owner's actions are disturbing others in the building, a fine can be issued.
Repeated violations can result in increased fines or, as a last resort, the board may wish to file a lawsuit to quell the disturbance.

But what about the thorny issue of the owner who will not provide access to fix a leak that is running down into the unit below? Most declarations and by-laws allow the board to gain access to any unit to make emergency repairs and, in fact, the board has a duty to remedy these types of problems. If the owner continues to refuse entry, however, the board can readily obtain an
emergency court order that permits direct access for repair purposes. The legal costs incurred can then be tacked on to the offending owner's monthly assessment.

Besides your declarations and by-laws, solutions to some of these issues can be found in the Illinois Condominium Property Act. This Act is particularly helpful in dealing with the non-paying unit owner. According to the Act, all unpaid assessments may become liens against the unit in question until paid. Also, the association is empowered to institute eviction proceedings against
the offending owner and/or his or her tenants. If an eviction order is entered, the association is entitled to rent out the unit to collect the unpaid assessments. Illinois is the only state in the country which provides an eviction remedy for delinquent assessments.

Keep in mind that by choosing to live in a condominium, you are joining a small democratic sub-society with its own set of freedoms and restrictions. As courts have held, each unit owner gives up a certain amount of freedom to enjoy the benefits of shared expenses and the low maintenance that comes with condo life. When you share walls, common expense accounts, and
utilities there are bound to be problems. Knowing how to handle them in a neighborly, yet business-like manner will benefit the entire condo community.

Filed under: Community Association

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