APPELLATE COURT PROVIDES SOME CLARITY ON SIX MONTHS RULE

Under Section 9(g)(4) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act, a foreclosure purchaser, other than a mortgagee, or a third-party who purchases a foreclosed unit from a mortgagee must pay to the association six months of common expenses attributable to the prior owner, as long as the association initiated collection against that prior owner.  Since its addition to the Act, this so-called “six months” rule has had relatively few opportunities for review by appellate courts.  However, the First District Appellate Court recently considered what parties are considered “mortgagees” under the Act and thus may pass on the responsibility for the six months to a subsequent third-party purchaser.  Specifically, in Wing Street of Arlington Heights Condominium Association v. Kiss the Chef Holdings, LLC, the court ruled a mortgagee’s wholly owned subsidiary is also a mortgagee under the Act and therefore is not liable for the six months; the six months would become due once that subsidiary sold the unit to a third-party.

Broadly speaking, a mortgagee is the lender or other party that holds a mortgage on a piece of real estate.  In Wing Street, Village Bank & Trust foreclosed its mortgage on a condominium unit.  VBT Wing Street Condo, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Village Bank & Trust, purchased the unit at the judicial sale.  After VBT sold the unit to Kiss the Chef Holdings, LLC, the association sued Kiss the Chef for unpaid assessments.  One of the issues in the case was whether VBT was a subsequent purchaser under 9(g)(4), in which case it would be responsible for the six months, or whether VBT was a mortgagee, in which case Kiss the Chef would then be the subsequent purchaser responsible for the six months.

            In deciding whether VBT was a mortgagee for the purposes of 9(g)(4), the appellate court looked to the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law, which defines a mortgagee as “(i) the holder of an indebtedness or obligee of a non-monetary obligation secured by a mortgage or any person designated or authorized to act on behalf of such holder and (ii) any person claiming through a mortgagee as successor.”  735 ILCS 5/15-1208.  Using this definition, the court determined that, since VBT was acting on behalf of Village Bank & Trust when it purchased the unit at the judicial sale, VBT was a mortgagee and therefore not responsible for the six months under 9(g)(4).  As a result, Kiss the Chef was the subsequent third-party purchaser under 9(g)(4) and therefore responsible to pay the six months of unpaid common expenses.

            Because Wing Street involved a bank’s subsidiary, the court did not make any ruling as to whether other entities that commonly receive deeds following foreclosure sales, such as HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, are also considered mortgagees under 9(g)(4).  However, the court did leave some guidance, specifically that the proper definition to apply is the one found in the Illinois Mortgage Foreclosure Law.  If one of these entities acts on behalf of the lender or is a successor to the lender, it will likely also fit the definition of mortgagee and thereby not bear responsibility for the six months.  Given this is an area of law that has yet to be fully fleshed out by the courts, it is imperative that associations note the six months amount on post-foreclosure account statements in order to ensure the association will eventually recover the full amount to which it is legally entitled.