K.M. from Chicago, IL writes:
Dear Mister Condo,
I would like to know if there are any rights that condo owners have that supersede the condo board? I would like to know if condo owners can band together to get an audit without the cooperation of the condo board? I would like to know if the condo board can legally choose a company to renovate without the condo owners having a vote in it? Is there any recourse for condo owners who feel fraud may have taken place especially if the board or the vendors are involved? When an owner in a condo building becomes sick and it is recommended that she uses a therapeutic dog in a building that does not allow pets, would it be against the Americans with Disabilities act to deny him/her the ability to have the dog in common areas outside of her/his apartment?
Mister Condo replies:
K.M., you sure have a lot of issues with your current Board, don’t you? Obviously, the association does not have to continue to re-elect any Board member who isn’t doing the work of the association or is even under suspicion of mishandling association funds. The simplest solution is to seek out volunteer leaders from within the community and elect better folks to serve on the Board.
The Board, and the Board alone, has the ability to conduct an audit. Owners cannot ban together and get their own audit. In fact, I doubt you could find a affirm that would even consider auditing a non-profit like a condominium without the Board’s consent. That being said, individual unit owners do have the right to inspect association records so if there is a particular area where you think fraud has occurred, you could ask to see those records. Keep in mind that there may be a fee involved for inspecting the records.
The Board hires contractors for renovations. Again the records are available for unit owner inspection so you may request to see bids and Board votes on which bid to accept. If you feel there was collusion or fraud in the awarding of the bid, you might wish to gather with fellow unit owners to expose the fraud and determine if a legal course of action is warranted. A criminal action is unusual but a civil suit may accomplish what you seek.
Any unit owner who presents the Board with a doctor’s notice about the need for a service animal is not bound by the association’s rules about pets as service animals are not pets. If the doctor’s note is presented and the Board refuses to allow the service animal on the grounds, the unit owner being denied access to the service animal should file suit in court and will likely win. The Board needs education on what the law allows with regard to service animals. Quite simply, they are not pets and cannot be treated as such.
So the bottom line is that the Board needs to maintain trust with unit owners or risk being tossed from office, either in due course or by a special meeting of the unit owners, which is outlined in your condo’s governing documents. Of course, you need to have a replacement slate of volunteers willing and able to step in one the old guard goes. Boards are not all powerful. Your condo’s governing documents spell out their powers and how to remove them if they abuse those powers. All the best!