Q. The members of the board of our condominium are not paid. However, the board members receive a discount on their assessments. Is this permitted?
A. The amount of the assessment discount board members receive is the legal equivalent of compensation. The declaration for your association, as is common, provides that board members serve without compensation, unless compensation is approved by two-thirds of the owners in the association. The issue of giving board members an assessment discount needs to be submitted to the ownership for approval at a meeting of the owners.
That said, board members can be reimbursed for their actual out-of-pocket expenses, if any, incurred as a board member, without owner approval. Examples of some of these expenses might be office supplies, or printer ink or paper for a computer used to print association-related documents.
Q. I previously lived in a condominium. Owners were welcome to attend board meetings. However, owners were not permitted to speak at these meetings. I recently moved out of my condominium and into a common interest community association. Is the law the same about owner's speaking at board meetings?
A. The law governing owners and board meetings is not the same for a common interest community association as it is for a condominium association. In all associations, board meetings are for the purpose of conducting board business. While owners are permitted to attend board meetings and observe, boards of associations are not required to permit owners to participate in a board meeting. However, the board of a common interest community association is required to reserve a portion of the meeting for comments by the unit owners. The duration of the owner comment period, and when it occurs during the board meeting, is within the sole discretion of the board. Condominium and homeowner associations are not under this obligation to include an owner comment period in board meetings; however, it isn't necessarily a bad idea.
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 that 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.
• 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.