Most condo association declarations give the board the authority to require unit owners to maintain, repair, or replace limited common elements like the windows in their units.
Q. I am a unit owner in a condominium association and our board of directors is requiring the unit owners to replace all originally installed windows in their units because the board believes they are in need of replacement. I had my windows inspected and was told only five out of nineteen windows needed to be replaced. Can the board legally require unit owners to replace windows in their units?
A. Under most condominium declarations and section 4.1 of the Condominium Act, windows are deemed limited common elements. Most declarations do grant the board the authority to require unit owners to maintain, repair, or replace limited common elements associated with their unit, at their cost, and to provide lien waivers from the contractor to ensure full payment was made. That same provision also usually provides that if that work is not done, the board may perform the requested work and then bill the condo owner.
The governing documents of each association need to be reviewed to confirm whether such common language exists in a particular condominium declaration.
Q. I am the treasurer of my condominium association. We have a unit owner who has accumulated numerous fines over the years but refuses to pay. Those smaller fines have now added up to something more significant. What are our options to collect?
A. Condo owners must pay all appropriate fines. For an inexpensive, but passive approach to collection, condominium associations can record a lien against a unit for unpaid common expenses. If the condo owner wanted to sell or refinance the unit, the owner would have to pay the unpaid fees for the association to release the lien. Legal fees for the preparation and recording (and release) of the lien may be assessed to the unit owner’s assessment account.
For an active approach to collection, pursuant to the Illinois Code of Civil procedure and section 9.2 of the Condominium Act, after a 30-day demand, condominium associations may file a lawsuit against unit owners to collect their unpaid share of the common expenses and the association is entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees and costs for enforcing its collection rights.
Q. I am the president of a small condominium association. It is my understanding that Illinois case law prohibits condominium board members from emailing each other to discuss board business. However, we have several board members that refuse to comply with the law. Emails are constantly being sent among some directors. Are there any consequences to the board members for these continuing violations?
A. Illinois case law is clear that a quorum of the board (three out of five board members on a five-person board, for example) may not discuss board business outside a properly called board meeting unless the association’s statute clearly states when and if that is an option. That includes emails. Board members who refuse to comply with the law may find themselves in breach of their fiduciary duties, which could result in a lawsuit leading to a possible court order that they cease and desist from violating the law. They may also be found liable for monetary and/or legal fees.
It is a best practice for board members to refuse to engage in email discussions outside of a properly called board meeting. If board members wish to convey information to other board members, it should be done via email blind carbon copy, or BCC, so there’s no possibility of a discussion chain among several board members.