Condo Owners: IL Condominium Property Act Needs Updating

Some Illinois real estate corporations are getting large paydays by charging homeowners assessments for “common expenses,” and the owners allege they are taking advantage of the Illinois Condominium Property Act. Owners in a building along Chicago’s Lakefront say they are being pushed out of their homes and cannot afford the new building owner’s fees, which they say are unreasonable. Teyona James Harris, a member of Condo Owners of Woodland Park and 13-year homeowner demanded assistance at City Hall to fight what she calls “unjust displacement.”

“So, they have things like landscaping, where they spent like 100-and-something-thousand dollars on,” Harris pointed out. “In the past two budgets where we’ve had special assessments, there were the same items in both budgets that never got taken care of. They’re trying to push us out because they want our properties.”

The condo owners have joined forces with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and are proposing changes to the state’s Condominium Property Act to force greater transparency and accountability by condo associations, provide more protections and create a more fair and equitable system for condo owners in Illinois. The Condominium Property Act is meant to protect current owners from “unreasonable” special assessments, or those which are not necessarily in the best interests of the unit owners. When corporate real estate interests purchase a building and manage to gain a majority stake in the homeowners’ association, such expenses can increase and may even be illegal.

Ebony Lucas, an attorney at The Closing Firm, said it is difficult and expensive for longtime owners to use the protections provided by the Act in court.

“At one time there was a discussion about a condo ombudsman, so people don’t have to spend so much money in litigation, and there’s no arbitration,” Lucas explained. “I think it would be helpful to owners to not have to go through very costly lawsuits for issues that are clearly violations of the Act.”

Changes to the Illinois Condominium Property Act are not out of question. Gov. JB Pritzker signed House Bill 5246 last month, which shortens the length of time condo board members have to comply with owners’ written requests to see records. The Condo Owners of Woodland Park see it as motivation to pursue more changes.

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