Q: Some years ago, I purchased a two-bedroom condo in downtown Chicago. It was advertised as having two parking spaces. They are piggy-back spaces, as the first car cannot get out until the second car is moved into the spot. From what I understand, these particular parking spaces are not part of the deed; they are assigned spaces on which I do not pay any property taxes. I have had the same spaces since I bought my unit 20 years ago. My board now has decided that anyone with an "assigned" second spot was not entitled to such, and therefore wants us to choose between paying rent or relinquishing these spots. Since they are piggy-back spots, nobody else can park in the second spot without blocking me in, so the whole arrangement makes little sense. Also, the original offering plan gave everyone one spot, and stated that the entitlement of a second spot could be purchased by the first buyer of the condo unit for an additional $10,000. I don't know what to do. How do I prove that I am entitled to the second spot? I really do not think that it is fair to start being charged rent after all this time. There are people who have been here over 20 years, and it is happening to them too. What if anything, can we do?
—Feeling Cheated in Chicago
A: “Your fact pattern is complicated and needs further investigation,” says attorney Sima L. Kirsch of the Chicago-based Law Office of Sima L. Kirsch, P.C. “Ownership of property, who owns what and in what form, is contained in your operating documents (declaration, bylaws, plat), regardless of what you think you purchased. My recommendation would be to start with a review of the association documents and your deed, or have someone review them for you. It may be that your spot is treated as an exclusive limited common element in the documents, in which event it stays with the unit and the association may not take control, or it is referred to as a common element, and then they do have control, or the association does not have the authority to make the suggested change. After determining how the property is categorized in the documents, you may find your issue is one between you and your seller.
“How the documents categorize property trumps what is in your deed and sales contract, unless you purchased from the developer. The contract you signed may or may not have been clear about the type of parking being passed in the sale. If unclear, were questions asked to determine the actual legal nature of the spaces? It could be seller sold you something they don’t have or they may have represented that the unit has two spots but not whether it would remain with the unit. Researching the answer to your question as suggested above is the most time and cost efficient way to proceed if you want the most accurate answer possible. An answer based on your facts alone would be a total guess, and not an answer I would rely on. As always, this information is not provided as legal advice and you should consult an attorney in the field who can help you assess your particular factual situation.”