Q&A: Amending Condo Docs

Q What options are available for amending our condominium documents? Our  condominium association often has recommended and even voted in favor of making  amendments to the declaration but there has been no follow-up based on such  action. The general understanding is that amendments must be handled through an  attorney thus costing the association a great deal of money, which for us is in  short supply like for most associations.  


A —Questioning in Chicago  

 “There is no law that requires attorney involvement in the amendment process and  I cannot recall having seen such a requirement in the governing documents,” says attorney Charles T. VanderVennet of Arlington Heights. “Nonetheless, it is prudent business practice for an association to consult with  legal counsel to make sure that the amendment process is handled properly. The  provisions of an amendment not put in place using proper language and  procedures would be unenforceable. There may be ways for the cost for attorney  involvement to be streamlined somewhat while still providing appropriate  guidance for the project.  

 “I recommend to my condominium clients that the Board of Managers oversee and  pursue the suggested amendment effort even if the board members are not  necessarily in favor of the proposed changes. In that way, the association’s resources can be used to evaluate the proposal and then to move the proposal  forward into proper documents and using proper procedures if it is determined  that the proposal does not conflict with applicable law and has sufficient  support to warrant consideration.  

 “The amendment provisions may call for the unit owners’ approval of the proposed amendment to be established by their signatures on a  written instrument setting forth the amended language or by voting at a meeting  of the unit owners called for that purpose. Whichever way is established by the  governing documents must be the approach that is used. A project that would  change the fundamental “contract” affecting the unit owners and the association should not be taken lightly. Most  amendment projects involve a significant number of issues and concerns that  must be addressed. Circumstances at one association are not always the same as  those in another association.  

 “A “cookie cutter” document likely would not be adequate. Most often, the association is best  served by involving legal counsel at least to some extent to ensure the  propriety of the subject matter and the amendment procedures. The expertise  provided by legal counsel should lead to amended language that conforms to the  law, does not conflict with the other terms set forth in the governing  documents and can be enforced.”  

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