Collecting Delinquent Assessments
The collection of condominium assessments is the association's primary source of revenue. As such, it is vitally important that a board maintain a strict collection policy in order to effectively deal with delinquent owners. Once an owner gets more than two months delinquent, we recommend that the association work quickly to, at a minimum, establish a payment plan with the delinquent owner. If the account is not cleared up shortly, we recommend that an attorney be contacted.
If the account remains past due, the association can seek to terminate the unit owner's possession rights through an eviction action. In short, the association can evict a condominium unit owner just like a landlord is legally permitted to evict a tenant. The first step in the eviction process is the delivery of a written thirty-day notice. Once the thirty-day repayment period has elapsed, the Association is in a position to file an eviction action against the owner.
If an eviction action is filed, the defendant must then be served by the sheriff's office with a copy of the complaint and summons. In Cook County, the trial date can occur as soon as three weeks after the filing of the complaint. However, this trial date may be delayed if the deputy sheriff is unable to serve the defendant. In the event there whereabouts of the owner is unknown, there is a procedure for serving the owner by “posting”, but this process of alternative service does cause some minor delay.
Once the defendant has been served, and the trial date arrives, the defendant often times will not even appear and will be "defaulted". In the default scenario, on this first court date, the judge will enter an order of possession in favor of the association and a money judgment against the owner. However, there are other instances when the owner or an attorney appears and seeks to actively defend the lawsuit. That scenario does certainly cause delay, however the courts treat eviction cases as expedited proceedings, and the trial should be scheduled within weeks or months (and not years).
When a judgment is ultimately obtained, the association is entitled to recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs. If the owner is leasing out the unit, the association is entitled to an immediate assignment of rents whereby the tenant must pay rent directly to the association. If the unit owner is still occupying the unit, the court must "stay" the eviction (i.e., delay the eviction) a minimum of 60 days. Once the stay period concludes, the association can schedule the forcible removal of the owner by the sheriff, at which point the association is permitted to rent out the unit and collect rent to be applied against the delinquency. It is important to note that this judgment does not mean that the association has become the owner of the unit, rather it just has a right of possession that is superior than the owner.