Q. A unit owner in our association has become a hoarder. Personal property and garbage is piled to the ceiling of the unit, and there are narrow passages throughout the unit making it look like a maze. The board has received reports from neighbors about odor and bug infestation. The owner has not responded to friendly requests from the board to clean up the unit. The board is concerned about the health and safety of this owner, and all owners, as well as the impact on the structural integrity of the building. What can the board do?
A. This is an unfortunate scenario that is played out in many associations, with serious health and safety consequences. I have been involved in a situation where the weight of the "junk" kept in the unit did create a structural issue.
There are a variety of approaches the board can follow to deal with hoarding by an owner. First, the owner's family members, if known, should be contacted. Often, the family will assist the owner in having the unit cleaned and in dealing with potential illness that resulted in the conditions of the unit. Sadly, many owners in this situation either don't have family, or their family will not provide help.
Another approach is to contact the office of the public guardian for the county. The public guardian will often conduct an interview with the owner. This may result in some sort of involuntary commitment proceeding to evaluate the owner's mental condition and/or assistance in cleaning up the unit. Similarly, the local health department may intervene.
Failing these approaches, the association can file suit against the owner. The suit would seek a court order requiring the owner to clean up the unit, or permit the association to do so at the owner's expense. The association is entitled to recover its attorney's fees from the owner in these cases.
Q. Our condominium association owns a unit that is used as a hospitality room for owners and for meetings of the association. The association receives a tax bill for this unit; the tax bill is thousands of dollars a year. I thought associations were not responsible for real estate taxes on association-owned property.
A. For purposes of property taxes, real estate owned and used for residential purposes by a condominium association, including a master association, is supposed to be assessed at $1 per year. This results in zero real estate tax liability to the association. The assessed valuation, and therefore the real estate taxes for the real estate owned by the association, is not "lost." Rather, the value of the real estate owned by the association is supposed to be assessed to the individual unit owners by the county. This is intended to avoid double taxation of the real estate.
Note that the real estate owned by the association must be subject to the exclusive right by easement, covenant, deed or other interest of the owners and used exclusively by the unit owners for recreational or other residential purposes in order to be entitled to the $1 assessed valuation.
The board of your association should consult with its attorney to file the appropriate complaint to have the assessed valuation reduced; it should not be an expensive process.
Q. I was recently advised that our homeowner association, an Illinois nonprofit corporation, was involuntarily dissolved by the Secretary of State. What does this mean and how can this be avoided in the future?
A. Each nonprofit corporation is required to prepare and file a one page annual report with the Illinois Secretary of State, and a filing fee. The Secretary of State mails an annual report form to each association's registered agent about 60 days before it is due to be filed. If the association fails to file an annual report when due, it will first be deemed to be "not in good standing." The association can still file the annual report; however, it will have to pay a penalty in addition to the filing fee. If the association does not file an annual report within 90 days after the date its annual report was due, the association will be involuntarily dissolved by the Secretary of State. The association can have its corporate status reinstated by preparing an application for reinstatement, with the annual report and fees and penalties.
A common reason that an association does not file an annual report is that the person identified as the registered agent is no longer involved with the association, and "forgets" to forward it on to the board. This might be a former board member or managing agent. I find that it is useful to have the association's attorney serve as the registered agent, and it's simple to do.
• David M. Bendoff is an attorney with Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit in Buffalo Grove. Send questions for the column to him at CondoTalk@ksnlaw.com. The firm provides legal service to condominium, townhouse, homeowner associations and housing cooperatives. This column is not a substitute for consultation with legal counsel.