The Paper Trail Understanding Your Governing Documents

 Remember that thick stack of documents you received when you bought your condo  or co-op? If you're like most people, they're probably sitting in a drawer or  in the back of your filing cabinet, communing with the dust bunnies, largely  forgotten.  

 While quarantining all those densely-worded legal papers with the rest of the  documents and slips that came along with buying the new place is tempting, it's  time to excavate them, shed the dust, and reacquaint yourself, because those  files are the first and last word when it comes to how your building is  governed. They map out the responsibilities and powers of the board, dictate  how finances are to be handled, and codify the rules and regulations to which  all residents must adhere.  

 Most people—even board members—don't read their building or HOA's governing documents unless they have a  specific question to answer, and residents are notoriously unfamiliar with  them. This ignorance is the basis for a lot of misunderstanding and confusion  between building administrators and their residents—and the first step to preventing those sorts of problems is to learn what  exactly the documents are and why you and your building community need them.  

 Different Beasts

 According to Jeremy A. Gibson, principal business attorney of the real estate  law firm Jeremy A. Gibson & Associates with offices in Chicago and Deerfield, Illinois. It all starts with  the difference between condos and co-ops. In a condominium (by far the more  common of the two in the Chicagoland area), each unit owner actually owns their  apartment; it's their real property.  

 So the documents that condo owners receive govern the common areas, such as the  hallways, the elevators, the lobby, the parking facilities, and any other  shared spaces throughout the building,  


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  • Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court rendered an opinion in the case of Palm vs. 2800 N Lake Shore Dr. Condo Assoc. This opinion will have a drastic effect on a condo asociation's requirements to store documents pertaining to the association ad infinitum. Not only did the court agree that there is no time limit for maintenance of records, but an association upon proper request from an association member must produce the requested document in 3 days.The decision was made pursuant to a Home Rule under the Chicago Municple Code which under this case trumps the Illinois Condominium Act without any specific purpose stated as to why the Home Rule should prevail. I am shocked that your publication has not printed anything about this case . It will have a chilling effect not only on condominium associations but also upon individual municipalities to promulgate their own rules incontravention to state law without a showing as to why the local rule is necessary.