Lawsuits are usually not an association’s go-to method for dispute resolution. Expensive and time-consuming, they can quickly turn into a financial burden and may create strained relations in the community. Unfortunately, in some cases there’s no other way out. Last year, a Lakeview couple filed a suit against a neighbor, their association, individual board members, and property managers who all neglected to respond to the couple’s complaint of odors infiltrating their unit, the result of 20 cats inhabiting the neighbor’s unit below.
This may have been an extreme case but most associations will be involved in a lawsuit at some point, though the length and, certainly, the price tag may vary.
“Our firm has litigated cases that have settled right after the suit was filed and incurred only minimal expense,” says attorney Mark Roth, a principal at the law firm of Orum & Roth, LLC in Chicago. “On the other hand, we are involved in litigation that is currently 13 years old and counting, involving numerous appeals, and has been defended at a cost of over $500,000.”
Regardless of the cost or type of complaint, there are a few basic points about lawsuits that all associations should be aware of.
Unless you live in a utopian condo association, lawsuits are bound to happen. The most common ones involve noise complaints between neighbors, construction defects in units and attempts to collect delinquent payments from residents. But how does a lawsuit begin? “A suit is initiated with the filing of a written complaint, in which the plaintiff sets forth the facts and legal theories under which he believes he or she should prevail in the suit,” explains attorney Barry Kreisler of Kreisler Law PC in Chicago.