Managing Amenities Coping with Changing Trends

The condominium’s swimming pool was 30 years old. It needed a renovation. That would trigger a legal requirement that it be in compliance with current regulations—and would cost $1 million. The association’s board of directors, aghast at the cost, decided to shut down the pool instead. Many owners protested, insisting the pool had to be retained because the governing documents listed it among the condo’s common elements.

Was the board within its rights to shut down the pool? Probably, says one legal pro. “Section 18.4(a) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act gives a condo board broad authority to administer the common elements,” explains Attorney Howard S. Dakoff. His Chicago-based firm, Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, counsels over 1,500 Illinois condo associations.

“Illinois case law says the board has broad authority to use its business judgment without fear of liability,” Dakoff adds. “One could argue that the board must maintain that amenity at any cost, but the true answer is the balancing of hardships and the common-sense rule.”

This situation illustrates one of the foremost challenges in managing amenities—money. Michael Kennelly, chief operating officer of Phoenix Rising Management Group, Ltd., in Chicago, which manages 116 properties with close to 5,000 units, says that “while amenities might be initially appealing, most owners and prospective buyers focus on current assessments and reserves. To properly manage an amenity, associations are required to budget for routine maintenance and upgrades, which drive up assessments. As assessments increase, groups of the ownership may advocate scaling back or eliminating amenities they do not personally use or value. This can cause friction between groups of owners who do or do not use the amenity.”

Size and Location

In Chicagoland as a whole, Dakoff says, the most popular amenities are swimming pools, fitness centers (sometimes called health clubs or workout rooms), and party rooms available for occupants’ rental.

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