Fine for Abusive Owner Leads to Costly Court Battle
After numerous allegations of abusive behavior, a Chicago condo association imposed a $500 fine on an owner. It led to years of costly litigation, a $125,000 payment to the owner, and a court ruling that could haunt associations for years to come.
The owner had a long history of bad behavior. According to deposition testimony, he had used sexist, racist, and scatological language, insulted employees, and “exposed his scrotum to people in a board meeting.” The owner himself conceded that he’s “aggressive with everyone.”
“In 2009 and 2011, the association’s then-property management company wrote to him to admonish him,” says attorney Diane Silverberg, a principal in Chicago office of Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit who represented the association. The board president also had censured him.
“The letters and censure had no effect on his behavior,” Silverberg says.
In August 2013, the association’s attorneys sent a letter informing the owner that an association employee said he’d yelled profanities at her. Days later, they sent him another letter after a different employee accused him of similar behavior.
Both letters stated that the owner had violated a declaration provision banning “obnoxious or offensive activity from being carried on in any unit or in the common elements.”
The owner requested a hearing. At the videotaped executive session hearing, his attorney asked to review all underlying evidence against his client, but the board denied his request. Immediately after the hearing, the attorney asked for a copy of the video recording but again was denied.
The board subsequently levied a $500 fine. “The association vastly prefers to try to work things out and turns to fines as a last resort,” Silverberg says.
After paying the fine, the owner filed a lawsuit. Learn how it all shook out: