Q&A: Adding a Room?

Q A condo owner in my building added an extra room to her condo in our common  basement—now the basement is getting smaller and her condo is getting bigger. Is it fraud  or theft to the member association? What can we do? She has been adding space  to her condo for a long time. Where do we go for legal help?  

 —Defrauded in Fuller Park  

A “You have described a situation,” says attorney Timothy Buckley of the Chicago-based law firm of Howard & Howard, “where the offending unit owner has committed a trespass on the common elements  of the association or possibly even a deeded space in the basement belonging to  another unit owner. Under no circumstances should this type of conduct have  been tolerated by the board of directors of the condominium association. It  holds a duty to all of the other unit owners to contact the unit owner and  point out that her designated percentage ownership in the condominium is  expressly stated in the declaration, typically based on the square footage she  purchased initially. Unless she purchases additional available space, she can  not just take it.  

 “No unit owner, even a member of the board, can encroach on the common elements  of the association or the deeded property of another unit owner. Some  declarations state that garage spaces are deeded to owners, just like the units  they own. Others treat garage spaces as common elements to which unit owners  have a license to use, subject to the board’s oversight and control. In either case, it is the duty of the board to take  action by demanding that the offending unit owner remove any improvements to  her unit which exceed her original deeded space. If the space she took in the  basement is owned outright by an individual unit owner, that unit owner may  seek relief independently from any action by the board. Either the board or the  aggrieved unit owner may have a cause of action for trespass which may give  rise to a claim for damages and the right to have the illegal improvements  removed. If the offending unit owner is preparing to take any more space, she  may be enjoined by the court from committing any further trespass.”