Posts

NEW CHICAGO ORDINANCE DETERS OWNERS FROM ENTERING INTO SHORT-TERM AND VACATION LEASES IN VIOLATION OF COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION GOVERNING DOCUMENTS

Many, if not most, community association declarations prohibit owners from leasing their units for transient or hotel purposes.  While these types of restrictions have historically been uncontroversial and infrequently violated, the increasing popularity of peer-to-peer rental services such as AirBnB, VRBO, and HomeAway are quickly changing this.  These services make short-term and vacation leasing by owner very convenient and in turn created enforcement and administrative nightmares for community association boards of directors.

On June 22, 2016, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance further regulating short-term and vacation leasing, including adding additional registration requirements for owners within community associations leasing looking to lease their units for short-term or vacation purposes.  A link to the text of the ordinance is contained here, and below is an outline of some of the changes that significantly affect community associations:

 The ordinance:

  1. Allows community associations to submit an affidavit stating that short-term and vacation leasing is prohibited within the community association. This affidavit can attest that the prohibition was established be either 1) a vote of the Board (i.e., an amendment to the rules and regulations) or 2) a restrictive covenant contained in the association’s declaration or bylaws.  Upon receipt of this affidavit, the commissioner must maintain a “Prohibited Buildings List,” which shall be posted on the City of Chicago’s website.  In the event a community association is included on this “Prohibited Buildings List,” an owner cannot obtain a license to lease his or her unit for short-term or vacation purposes.

(While it has long been our opinion that most community associations have the right to restrict leasing via a board adopted rule (see Apple II Condominium Association v. Worth Bank & Trust Co.) this provision would appear to be the City of Chicago’s recognition that short-term and vacation leasing can be prohibited by a community association’s board of directors, not soley through a restriction approved by the members.  While this acknowledgement by the City of Chicago is far from an absolute guarantee that a courts will uphold short-term and vacation leasing restrictions adopted via rule, it certainly aids a community association’s efforts to defend such a rule’s validity and enforceability.)

  1. Provides limits on the number of units within a community association building that can be leased for short-term or vacation purposes. In community association buildings with two (2) to four (4) units, only one unit per building can be rented.  In community association buildings with more than five (5) units, short-term and vacation rental leases will be limited to either six (6) units or one-quarter (1/4) of the total number of units, whichever is less.
  1. Requires that any owner seeking to list his or her unit as a short-term or vacation rental first register with the City of Chicago and pay a licensing fee. Further, this application requires the owner to attest that the 1) community association has not adopted prohibitions of vacation rentals, and that that 2) the leasing limits (discussed above) have not been reached.
  1. Prohibits on-line platform companies (i.e., Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) from permitting advertisements of units ineligible to be leased for short-term or vacation purposes, including, advertisements for those units within a community association on the City of Chicago’s “Prohibited Building List.” Further, the ordinance provides penalties for on-line platform companies failing to comply this prohibition on advertising ineligible units.
  1. To ensure compliance, the ordinance establishes certain penalties for those violating the ordinance., including fines of $1,500 to $3,000 per offense, with each day that a violation exists treated as a separate and distinct offense. More egregious violations, such as criminal activity or public nuisance, will be subject to a fines of $2,500 to $5,000 per offense.

The passage of this ordinance is definitely good news for community associations struggling with owners leasing units in violation of short-term and vacation leasing restrictions, as it unquestionably discourages such violations.  That being said, the restrictions created by this ordinance are only enforceable by the City of Chicago, and therefore its effectiveness will be completely dependent upon the City of Chicago’s willingness, and ability, to enforce its provisions.  While community associations located within the City of Chicago which prohibit short-term and vacation leasing should certainly take the necessary steps to be included on the City of Chicago’s “Prohibited Building List,” ultimate enforcement may still fall at the hands of the board.

If you or your community association within the City of Chicago are interested in this topic, please contact me to set up a review of your current governing documents and outline the necessary steps to allow your community association to take full advantage of this ordinance.  I can be reached at ben@keaycostello.com or 630-690-6446 x 11.

 

LEASING RESTRICTIONS AFTER STOBE v. 842-848 WEST BRADLEY PLACE CONDOMINIUM ASSOCIATION

Recently, on February 3, 2016, the Illinois First District Appellate Court, Third Division, issued a ruling in the case of Stobe v. 842-848 West Bradley Place Condominium Association (2016 IL App (1st) 141427) pertaining to certain leasing restrictions within condominium associations.  At this time, this case is binding on all condominium associations within the First Appellate District (e.g. those within Cook County, Illinois) and could be viewed as persuasive as to associations located elsewhere in Illinois.  This Article is a summary of the Stobe case.

Summary of Stobe case

In Stobe, the plaintiff owners purchased a condominium unit within the defendant condominium association for purposes of renting out the unit.  The association’s declaration did not contain any express right of owners to lease their units, but rather included restrictions on owners leasing their units such that no units could be leased for transient or hotel purposes or for terms of less than six (6) months.  The article in the association’s declaration pertaining to leasing did not include a specific right of the association board to adopt further rules pertaining to leasing.  The association’s declaration and bylaws did contain elsewhere general language regarding the board’s ability to adopt rules and some specific language regarding the board’s ability to adopt rules pertaining to other types of restrictions.

The plaintiffs in Stobe purchased their condominium unit in late 2005, and then the association board adopted rules in July 2010 that placed a cap on the number of units that could be leased at any given time of thirty percent (30%).  In 2012, the association sought to enforce its leasing cap and evict the plaintiffs’ tenants which prompted the plaintiffs to file a lawsuit against the association declaring the board adopted leasing cap invalid.

The court in Stobe decided that the board adopted rule placing a cap on leasing was invalid because it conflicted with the association’s declaration.  While the association’s declaration did not contain an express right for owners to lease their units, the court determined that owners did have a right to lease their units because the association’s declaration contained certain restrictions related to leasing (i.e. the prohibition on leasing for transient or hotel purposes or for less than six (6) months) and these restrictions would be meaningless if owners did not have the right to lease their units.  Thus, the court reasoned that because the association’s declaration granted owners the right to lease their units, a board adopted rule could not take away this right.

Additionally, the court focused on the fact that elsewhere in the association’s declaration where restrictions were enumerated there was express language included that the board could adopt rules related to those particular restrictions, but there was not similar language in the article of the declaration that included the leasing restrictions.  Thus, the court held that because “the declaration has spoken on the matter of leasing, any augmentation or diminution of plaintiffs’ right to lease their unit must be accomplished through an amendment to the declaration, not a rule promulgated by the Board.”

For the past couple of decades, the seminal case in Illinois regarding leasing restrictions adopted by associations has been Apple II Condominium Ass’n v. Worth Bank & Trust Co., 277 Ill.App.3d 345 (1995).  For our summary of this case, please visit our website at (http://www.keaycostello.com/board-operations/the-return-of-leasing-and-restrictions-at-associations).  The Stobe court discussed the Apple II case but found it inapplicable because Apple II addressed a leasing restriction adopted by an amendment to a declaration as opposed to a leasing restriction adopted by a board which, in the Stobe court’s determination, conflicted with the association’s declaration.  While the Apple II court discussed the possibility of a board adopting leasing restrictions, the Stobe court found this discussion non-binding on it since Apple II did not actually involve a leasing restriction adopted by a board rule.

The Stobe court also discussed the case of Board of Directors of 175 East Delaware Place Homeowners Ass’n v. Hinojosa, 287 Ill.App.3d 886 (1997), which dealt with a board adopted rule prohibiting owners from having additional dogs.  The Stobe court reasoned that the Hinojosa case did not apply because in Hinojosa the association’s declaration did not contain any language related to dog ownership and therefore the board’s rule to prohibit new dogs did not conflict with any language within the declaration.

Going Forward

For some associations, the Stobe case provides clear guidance going forward.  For other associations, though, the Stobe case potentially raises more questions than it does provide answers.

For those associations that have any language or restrictions related to leasing within their declaration, if the articles/sections related to leasing do not have language specifically permitting the board to adopt rules related to leasing, the Stobe case would indicate that the boards for these associations are not permitted to adopt any rules or regulations related to leasing.  Any further restrictions related to leasing would need to be adopted through an amendment to the association’s declaration.

For those associations that have language or restrictions related to leasing within their declaration, if the articles/sections related to leasing do have language specifically permitting the board to adopt rules related to leasing, the Stobe case would indicate that the boards for these associations could adopt additional rules and regulations related to leasing as long as such rules and regulations do not conflict with the terms of the declaration.

On the other hand, if an association’s declaration contains no language related to leasing, the Stobe decision would seem to indicate that associations could adopt leasing restrictions through either a declaration amendment or through rules adopted by the board as further discussed in the Apple II case.

Additionally, the Stobe case raises questions regarding whether the court’s ruling could extend beyond just leasing restrictions.  For example, if an association’s declaration contains restrictions on a particular topic (such as pets, recreational activities, parking, storage of items, etc.), and does not contain language within such sections specifically providing that the board may adopt rules on these particular topics, the Stobe decision raises the question of whether or not the board would be able to adopt any rules on such topics.  The Stobe case solely dealt with leasing restrictions, so it cannot conclusively be applied to other types of restrictions at this point, but this does nevertheless put associations on notice that future courts could expand the reasoning from Stobe to other types of restrictions besides leasing restrictions.

As we did before the Stobe case was decided, our firm continues to highly recommend that any association seeking to adopt restrictions on leasing do so through an amendment to the declaration as opposed to a rule adopted by the board.  If your association is considering adopting restrictions on leasing, or already has such restrictions in place and would like them reviewed, please feel free to contact our office and one of our attorneys would be happy to assist you.

 

This article is being provided for informational purposes only.  This article does not constitute legal advice on the part of Keay & Costello, P.C. or any of its attorneys.  No association, board member or any other individual or entity should rely on this article as a basis for any action or actions.  If you would like legal advice regarding any of the topics discussed in this article and/or recommended procedures for your association going forward, please contact our office. 

 

 THE RETURN OF LEASING AND RESTRICTIONS AT ASOCIATIONS

As Illinois and the rest of the nation recovers from the crash of the residential real estate market, the issue of leasing restrictions has, again, arisen. Many associations having survived the onslaught of foreclosures are awaking to realize that the formerly owner occupied properties are quickly being bought up by groups of investors. Sometimes this has occurred over a number of years, but for some associations it seems like it happened overnight. Associations may quickly see the number of rental properties in their communities go from a comfortable five to ten percent, to a painful or problematic thirty percent.

The increase in rental units can be concerning to community associations for a myriad of reasons. When such concerns arise, boards and the owners have choices when it comes to who may occupy individual living units. The first choice to be made is whether leasing of units should be restricted in any fashion. If the answer to that question is yes, there are several leasing restriction options available for consideration. Whether an association chooses to allow leasing or not, it is important for boards and the owners to know their rights with respect to enacting leasing restrictions.

When an association decides to enact a leasing prohibition, either outright, with a grandfather clause or a cap, the association must determine whether to include such prohibition or restriction as a rule or by an amendment to the declaration containing a restrictive covenant. The difference between a rule and a covenant could determine the enforceability of the prohibition/restriction. In Illinois the seminal case on leasing restrictions is Apple II Condominium Association v. Worth Bank and Trust Co., 277 Ill.App.3d 345 (1st Dist. 1995).

The unit owners in Apple II were investment owners who purchased their property at a time when the association had no leasing restrictions. However, the appellate court stated that “neither the fact that there were no restrictions on the property when the [complaining unit owners] purchased their unit nor the fact that the [complaining unit owners] purchased the property for investment purposes is relevant.” Additionally, the court in Apple II acknowledged that while leasing restrictions put in place by rule are legal, courts will employ a greater level of scrutiny since the rule was adopted solely by a board and not the owners.

Once an association determines that a leasing amendment restriction would be beneficial to their community, a decision must be made as to the nature and extent of such a restriction. Does the association want to completely ban leasing of all units? Does the association want to limit leasing only to those units that are leased as of the time the amendment is passed? Does the association want to allow all current owners the opportunity to lease their units but prevent any subsequent purchasers from being able to enter into leases? Does the association want to impose a percentage cap?   Each of these decisions need to be carefully considered and properly documented in the language of any proposed amendment.

If a board and the owners at an association decide that restricting leasing of units would be beneficial to the association, the board should take several steps. First, the board should consult the association’s governing documents and review what they say about leasing. The next step the board and the owners must determine is the nature and extent of leasing restriction to be enacted. Finally, the best approach is for the board to propose an amendment to the governing documents and then have the proposed amendment voted on by the owners. While there are several options available to the board and the owners, it is up to the board and the owners to decide which leasing restriction best suits their community before it’s too late.