Q&A: One Man’s Trash

Garbage containers with tree. 3D rendering

Q. My HOA found garbage dumped on the front of our street—and since they didn’t know who did it, decided to fine everyone on the street. Problem is that during that time period, the HOA had numerous unsupervised contractors working with dumpsters all over the place in our community. How can they falsely claim this and extort money from owners?

                                       —Not My Garbage

A. “While the dumping of garbage on the street is a problem that causes the HOA to incur an expense, there are various considerations as to who should be charged for that expense,” says Michael C. Kim, of counsel with Chicago law firm Schoenberg Finkel Beederman Bell Glazer. “Ideally, the perpetrator should bear that expense, but if the perpetrator is unknown and, as a practical matter, not amenable to being held accountable (except with extraordinary efforts), then the result is that the HOA would have to bear the cleanup expense. If the HOA governing documents do make the persons whose homes abut the street in question responsible for any cleanup regardless of cause (as opposed to the entire HOA community), then those homeowners would be responsible. If there is no such responsibility imposed by the governing documents, then ‘fining’ (which implies guilt of misconduct) of just the homeowners on that street should not be done.  Finally, as to recourse against that action by the HOA, the aggrieved owners can consult with an attorney to explore possible legal action and/or they can take political action within their community against that HOA action.”

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