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When Improvement or Repair Costs May Be Charged Back by Condominium Association to Individual Unit Owners

(As published in the April, 2010 issue of ACTHA News, the newsletter of the Association of Condominium, Townhouse and Homeowners Associations (ACTHA))

QUESTION:  Under what circumstances can a Condominium Board charge back improvements or repairs to individual owners?  If such expenses are charged back to more than one individual owner, are these expenses charged equally or based upon percentage of ownership?

ANSWER:  Subject to limitations and special voting requirements applicable to additions, improvements and alterations to the common elements, there are several circumstances where improvements and repairs can be charged back to individual owners by a Condominium Board :

1. Where repairs within an individual unit are necessary to avoid damage to the common elements or other units, the Board may cause such repairs to be performed and charge the entire cost of such repairs to the owner of that unit.  An example of this would be a leaking pipe or plumbing fixture within a unit causing damage or likely to cause damage to either the common elements or other units.  If the unit owner does not promptly repair the leak within the unit and the imminent prospect of damage to other units or the common areas exists, the Board may cause the repair to be performed within the unit and charge the cost back to the unit owner.

2. Where repairs to the common elements are necessitated by the fault of a unit owner, the cost of the common element repair may be charged to the offending unit owner.  Thus, if a unit owner’s use of a barbecue grill on the unit’s balcony or patio causes damage to common area siding, the cost of this repair may be charged back to the offending unit owner.

3. In the case of limited common elements, the condominium documents may mandate or permit different treatments of the costs of repairs and improvements:

a. Unless otherwise provided in the condominium documents, such costs may be treated as common expenses, in which case they will be divided among all unit owners in the same ratio as their respective percentages of ownership in the common elements, even though the exclusive use of such limited common elements is exclusively assigned to one or more unit owners.

b. Under the Illinois Condominium Act, the condominium documents may provide that expenditures relating to limited common elements are to or may be assessed only against the units to which the limited common elements are assigned, in which case repairs and improvement costs for limited common elements assigned to a single unit may be charged to the owner of that unit and such costs for limited common elements assigned to more than one unit may be divided among the owners of those units in the same ratios as their respective percentages of ownership in the common elements.  Thus, the costs of repair of a balcony assigned to a single unit could be charged to the owner of that unit.  The costs of repair of a stairway assigned as a limited common element to three units accessed through that stairway could be charged to the three owners, with each owner’s share equal to his percentage interest in the common elements divided by the total percentage interest in the common elements of the three affected owners.

c. A condominium documents also may provide the Board with discretion as to how to bill costs amount unit owners benefited where the Board determines the facilities involved are not used equally or proportionately by those unit owners.

4. A Condominium Board has specific authority to authorize installation of bulk cable television services for the entire condominium and to charge unit owners for such service either as a common expense or if the Board so determines, to assess these costs on an equal basis to all unit owners.

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