Q&A: Rental Rules Not Enforced

My condo board rarely enforces rules, especially with respect to certain unit owners. Some are now renting, and I would like my family to be able to do so also. It is really bizarre because the board members, who are adamant about no renters, are very well aware of the families that are, and when you bring it up, they promise that if we were to rent, their lawyers would sue us. What is the worst that they could do to me and my tenants if I rent the apartment? Our documents allow up to a thousand dollar fine for any violation. Is this all the risk I am exposed to?

—Wanting to Rent in Wilmette

“If your condominium association’s declaration prohibits rentals and contains a remedy provision which allows the board to force a judicial sale of a unit based on a unit owner’s breach of the declaration or rules, then the worst thing the board can do to you is file suit seeking a court-ordered sale of your unit,” says Joseph W Scharnak, a partner with the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr in Chicago.     

“This is an extreme remedy which is unlikely to occur. It is more likely that the board will opt to use one of the other remedies available to a condominium board for purposes of enforcing the association’s declaration and rules. The board’s first option would be to levy a fine against you and your unit.

“The amount of the fine would remain as a lien against your unit until paid in full. In the event that you fail to pay the fine, the board could initiate collection action. Another option for the board is to file suit seeking injunctive relief meaning that the board is seeking a court order prohibiting you from renting your unit.

“If you violate the court order, you could be held in contempt of court which may result in your incarceration until such time as you comply with the court order. Finally, the Illinois Condominium Property Act allows a board to file an eviction lawsuit against a unit owner’s tenants whenever the unit owner fails to comply with the association’s rental restrictions. It is unlawful for a board to selectively enforce the association’s declaration or rules.

“In the event that you can establish that the board is not enforcing the rental restrictions uniformly, you would have a strong defense to any action taken by the board.”    

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