The Condo as Legal Entity Foundations & Fundamentals

In South Africa, it’s called a “sectional title.” In Quebec, it’s a copropriété divise or “divided co-property.” In Italy, they call it “condominio,” derived from Latin. Regardless of location, a condominium, commonly referred to as “condo,” is generally defined as a form of housing and other “real property” identified as a parcel of real estate that is individually owned among a collective.

In the Chicagoland area, no two condominiums look the same. Out in the suburbs, townhome and HOA communities offer a quiet oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city. Closer to downtown, low-rise condo buildings in residential neighborhoods provide a middle ground, a more intimate sense of community along with access to the culture and action of the Windy City. Then, there's the height of convenience and luxury of the glass high-rise condos.

Chicago has seen its population continue to dip over the last ten years, but the allure of urban living is catching on, and larger condominiums are cropping up through new mega-developments and apartment-to-condo transitions.

Now, more and more, Chicago condo owners are living in associations with hundreds of units. Whether you're a three-unit building, or a 1,200-unit building, the basic rules and laws are the same. The Illinois Condominium Property Act (ICPA) applies to everyone equally, but boards of large buildings have unique challenges, and the experience as a unit owner can vary tremendously between an unassuming small neighborhood building and a downtown high-rise full of amenities.

As a unit owner or board member of a large building, you may enjoy certain advantages, thanks to simple realities like economy of scale. With hundreds of fellow neighbors chipping in, it's much more financially viable to have a pool or spa on floor 12. Though, there are additional difficulties inherent in managing a behemoth of a building that a smaller building doesn't have to deal with as well. Regardless, size doesn't matter under the eyes of the law. “A corporation is a corporation, whether it’s a single-person corporation, or a larger one, or a non-profit corporation, they’re all governed under the same statutes, all the same laws apply; if you’re not a condo but you’re a homeowners association, those laws apply. If you’re a common interest community, they have a different act. The foundation is all the same,” says Chicago-based attorney Sima Kirsch of the Law Office of Sima L. Kirsch, P.C.

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