RESALE DISCLOSURE CHALLENGES – When the Commercial Condominium Association is “Inactive”
- Section 18.3 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act provides that a unit owners’ association will be responsible for the overall administration of the property through its duly elected board of managers. 765 ILCS 605/18.3.
- Section 19 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act sets forth a specific set of records that the board of managers of every association is required to maintain. 765 ILCS 605/19.
- Section 22.1 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act provides that “in the event of any resale of a condominium unit by a unit owner other than the developer such owner shall obtain from the board of managers and shall make available for inspection to the prospective purchaser, upon demand . . .” a fairly comprehensive list of condominium instruments, and other documents and information, concerning the makeup and financial condition of the owners association, insurance coverage, litigation, reserves, assessments, and the like. 765 ILCS 605/22.1.
Remarkably, perhaps as an aftermath of the Great Recession during which resales of commercial condominiums were infrequent, it is not rare to find that the owners association for a commercial condominium has become inactive or only slightly active. Record keeping and budgeting may have become ‘streamlined”, addressing little more than collecting minimal assessments to pay insurance premiums on common elements. The owner’s association may have no formal budget, no capital reserves, extreme deferred maintenance, scant, if any, record of meetings of the board of managers, and no centralized or organized record keeping system beyond a box in a filing cabinet in the back-office of one of the unit owners.
Because of the infrequency of unit transfers in recent years, and the possible inexperience of a record-keeper who may have gotten the record-keeping job by default – when the last remaining board member left following foreclosure of his or her unit during the Great Recession – obtaining and providing the resale disclosure documents and information required by §22.1 can be a challenge.
This challenge presents practical problems for the unit seller, unit buyer and the unit buyer’s proposed mortgagee when attempting to resell a commercial condominium unit. Not the least of these problems is delay and frustration in moving toward closing – which may ultimately sour a prospective buyer and its lender, and lead the buyer to back away from acquiring the unit at all.
Deferred maintenance of common elements affecting any unit in the condominium association could have an adverse financial impact on all unit owners. For example, if a commercial or industrial condominium association is comprised of multiple commercial/industrial buildings, a required roof replacement, foundation repair, or other structural repair for any of the buildings, or a recognized environmental condition in the common areas, could be expensive, with the cost shared among all unit owners. Accordingly, when investigating the condition of a commercial/industrial condominium unit being considered for acquisition, due diligence may require having all common elements in the association inspected, rather than merely looking at the unit being considered for acquisition. This may be more expensive and may take more time than might ordinarily be expected when purchasing a stand-alone building that is not a condominium unit.
Consider when drafting a purchase agreement under these circumstances, who should bear the cost of inspecting all common elements in the association? Ordinarily the cost of “due diligence” is a buyer’s expense. But if extraordinary inspections of association common elements beyond the specific unit being acquired is required in the exercise of due diligence because the selling unit owner did not demand that the owners’ association be operated by a board of managers in compliance with the Illinois Condominium Property Act, should the buyer bear this extraordinary expense, or should the seller?
There is no easy solution for this challenge, especially for a buyer planning to purchase a unit in one of these inactive associations. The best advice may be to become proactive – whether as an existing unit owner or upon becoming a new unit owner, to reactivate and invigorate the owners’ association and its board of managers, and to take steps to run the owners association in a businesslike manner, in compliance with the Illinois Condominium Property Act.
Generally speaking, owners of commercial condominiums are business people. They should demand that the association be run like they would run any business or investment property they invest in, if they expect to be successful.
If you have a viable solution to this challenge, please comment with your insights and practical suggestions.
Thank you in advance for participating in this discussion.