Resident Rights Knowing Them, Upholding Them

To paraphrase the Declaration of Independence, all men and women are created equal with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That may not be the case if you live in a condominium, co-op or HOA, however. Unlike a private home, living in a ‘common interest community’ represents a commitment to cooperative living – and along with that commitment come rules and regulations that just don’t come up in a single-family setting. So, if you own a free-standing, detached house and have a disagreement with a landscaper, let’s say, you can feel free to place a large sign on your front lawn that warns your neighbors not to do business with him or her. That won’t fly in a HOA.

Owners’ Rights vs. Association Rights

According to Sima Kirsch, an attorney in Chicago specializing in condo, co-op and HOA law, “When talking about rights in an association environment, the answer for each is controlled by the enabling statutes of the various entity forms and their individual operating documents. An owner has whatever rights are permitted in the documents, as well as other local, state and federal statutes. In a condo, one owns an undivided interest in property held in common with other owners, in addition to a separate interest in their own unit outright, in fee simple. Owners share the rights set out in the declaration, bylaws, rules and regulations. Any other form of ownership...are likewise controlled by whatever statute they are enabled under.”  

“With rare exception,” Kirsch continues, “condominium owners are invested with the following rights:  

Full and free use of their own unit, except in very limited cases (e.g. some states/municipalities have statutes forbidding tobacco and/or other types of smoking, and others draft rules around gun ownership. Some associations have established proscriptions against these activities, or their emanation from one unit and spillover into another.) Illinois has both statutes.  

Community use of the whole of the common elements, except as limited by, or where a particular use or activity is in violation of any law or the association’s operating documents and policies and procedures and rules and regulations.  


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  • My neighbor who is a global VP of a large company is not home a lot. This summer, it was quite hit and being an athletic person he went out for a long run. There are only 2 entrances to our condo building, the front door and walking around the building to the garage. He walked in the front door in his running shorts (to his knees) running shoes and had taken off his shirt. The management company operates surveillance cameras throughout the building. This gentleman leases the condo from a married couple who have never lived in the condo but received a letter from the management company that they would be fined because of their tenant not being properly attired. There are other rules regarding types of clothing allowed in our own hallways. 3 floors and 8 units per floor. What is going on?
  • I live in a condo in Cook County. I've lived here for over twenty years. Starting in February of this year my wife and I noticed that the roof was leaking into our kitchen. The result was that some damage was experienced. When I finally got ahold of the person representing the management company that runs our condo's he said that the repair to the roof was all they could do. They were not responsible for any damage to our ceiling or walls. Is this true?