Q. It turns out that we have a serious ant infestation problem in our building. One of my neighbors had ants in early spring after which another resident got them and now I have them. Is the association or the individual owner responsible to pay for the exterminator?
—Bugging Out in Bolingbrook
A. “This response presumes that the building is indeed a condominium property. Extermination responsibilities, maintenance authority and cost allocation may be handled differently in this were in a non-condominium setting,” says Attorney Charles VanderVennet of Arlington Heights.
“As with water running from one unit into another, ants migrating from one unit into another unit must have passed through the condominium's common elements on the way. That fact causes the association to become involved in the extermination process since the unit owners would not have the authority to do such work or to have such work done relative to those common elements. A comprehensive solution to the problem will require a cooperative effort between the association and each of the affected unit owners (and their tenants, if applicable. Once the infestation has been eradicated, the issue of the cost for that effort can be addressed.
“Section 18.4(j) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act empowers the association's Board of Managers to “have access to each unit from time to time as may be necessary for the maintenance...of any common elements for making emergency repairs necessary to prevent damage to the common elements or to other units.” Such access will be needed to coordinate and accomplish comprehensive extermination of the ants and, then, on-going preventative efforts to keep them from coming back.
“The board should rely on the advice of a competent exterminating professional as to the source or cause of the problem and available extermination methods. Once the board is comfortable with the terms of the proposal submitted for the work, the board would enter into a contract for the work to be done.
“During the evaluation, it likely will be helpful to learn what, if anything, was done by the resident when the ants were first discovered. What the resident did and did not do may play into the final decision as to whether or not the association seeks reimbursement from one or some of the unit owners for the cost of the work that was done. Depending on a number of circumstances, such reimbursement is a possibility. If the cause of the infestation would be considered a breach of the recorded covenants governing the association's operations or of rules based on those covenants, then notice of the alleged violation and an opportunity for a hearing would be given to the unit owner. Following the hearing, the board would decide whether or not a violation had occurred and, if so, what sanction was to be imposed, such as allocation of the extermination costs to be paid by the unit owner.”