Condo Owner Liable for Damage He Caused to Condo Building

A recent appellate court case, Gelinas v. Barry Quadrangle Condominium Ass’n, 2017 IL App (1st) 160826 (February 14, 2017) Cook Co., 1st Div., revolves around a dispute between a condominium owner and the condominium association. Gelinas owned a unit in the Barry Quadrangle Condominium Association. In June of 2012, a fire started in his unit which resulted in six-figure damage to the condominium association. There was no dispute as to the origin of the fire. The association filed a claim against its insurance and paid the $10,000 deductible. The insurance company reimbursed the association for the claim.

The association’s bylaws state the following:

“If, due to the act or neglect of an Unit Owner, or of a member of his family or household pet or of a guest or other authorized occupant or visitor of such Unit Owner, damage shall be caused to the Common Elements or to a Unit or Units owned by others, or maintenance, repairs or replacements shall be required which would otherwise be at the common expense, then such Unit Owner shall pay for such damage and such maintenance, repairs and replacements, as may be determined by the Board, to the extent not covered by insurance.”

Based on this language, the association sent a notice to Gelinas for reimbursement of the $10,000 deductible. That notice resulted in a lawsuit, which the association won; the trial court stated that the charge-back to the condominium owner was proper.

Gelinas appealed. Among other things, he argued that the court’s dismissal of his case based on the Illinois Condominium Property Act (the “Act”) and the association’s declarations and bylaws was improper.  The appellate court disagreed with him.

The appellate court noted that not only did the association’s bylaws specifically allow the chargeback, Section 12(c) of the Act specifically states that the association may “assess the deductible amount against the owners who caused the damage or from whose units the damage or cause of loss originated”.  The court stated that the “plain and unambiguous” language of Section 12(c) of the Act and the association’s bylaws made it clear that the association could assess the deductible to the unit owner.

So condo owners, beware! Don’t do anything in your unit which could cause damage outside of it —  you could end up incurring a lot of unanticipated expense!