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Posts filed under: Commercial Condominiums

Illinois Condominium Deconversion

RSP_LogoHD (3)Condominium deconversion is growing in popularity to enhance the value of busted condominium projects. It is not unusual for condominium projects that entered the market in the bubble years immediately before the Great Recession to have ended up as a “busted condo” project. This is a term commonly used to described condominium projects that failed when developers were unable to sell a substantial portion of the condominium units.

 

In many cases this resulted in development loans going into default and foreclosure, with bulk purchasers acquiring the developer’s units and renting them out as individual rental units.  Other times, the developers themselves were able to modify their development financing and continue to hold and rent the units themselves.

 

In either case, with residential apartment projects becoming a favored investment vehicle for some investors, finding a way to deconvert busted condo projects by terminating their status as “condominiums” and turning the whole project into a single-owner apartment project has come into favor.  This often results in a substantial increase in value to investors.

 

Section 16 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act 765 ILCS 605/16 provides the mechanism for removing a condominium project from the provisions of the act, a term colloquially referred to as “condominium deconversion”.

 

A principal challenge for condominium deconversion is that, by statute, condominium deconversion requires action by all the unit owners and the consent of the holders of all liens affecting any of the units.   765 ILCS 605/16.  In any sizable condominium project, this is a difficult hurdle to overcome.

 

Fortunately, for bulk-owners of a substantial percentage of condominium units, getting to 100% participation by all units owners is not as difficult as it may at first seem. Instead of trying to convince 100% of all unit owners to go along, or trying to purchase units from hold-out unit owners who may demand a substantial premium over the objective fair market value of their unit, there is another alternative. Bulk-owners of a substantial percentage of units may chose, instead, to undertake a two-step process to enable condominium deconversion in a much more efficient way.

 

Two-Step Process to Condominium Deconversion:

 

1.     The first step is to acquire a sufficient number of condominium units in the project to be able to implement the “forced-sale” provisions of Section 15 of the Condominium Property Act. 765 ILCS 605/15. Unless the condominium declaration or bylaws require a greater percentage (which they seldom do in residential condominium projects), this means acquiring or gaining control of only 75% of the condominium units. Since many bulk-owners already own a substantial percentage of units, and sometimes have access to additional units at bargain prices through short-sale purchases or otherwise, getting to the 75% ownership threshold may not be an insurmountable challenge.

 

Once a bulk-owner owns or controls 75% of the units (unless a greater number is required by the declaration or bylaws), the bulk-owner can vote at a meeting of unit owners called for such purpose, to sell the property as a whole.  Pursuant to Section 15, such action is binding on all unit owners, and it is thereafter the duty of all unit owners to execute and deliver such instruments and to perform all acts necessary to effect the sale; provided that a unit owner that did not vote to approve the sale has the right, for 20 days, to file a written objection. If this occurs, the objecting unit owner is still obligated to execute all documents and take all actions to effect the sale, but will be entitled to receive an amount equivalent to the value of the unit owner’s interest as determined by fair appraisal, less any unpaid assessments or charges due from such unit owner. 765 ILCS 605/15.

 

2.     Upon satisfaction of the 75% threshold for approval to convey the entire property, and conveyance of the entire property to a single identified buyer, that buyer alone – provided it has the consent of all lienholders (which, in theory should be only the buyer’s mortgagee), has the power to elect to remove the property from the provisions of the Illinois Condominium Property Act pursuant to Section 16 of Act. 765 ILCS 605/16 – a so-called condominium deconversion.

 

The forced sale provision in Section 15 of the Act establishes a mandatory legal duty for all unit owners to participate in the conveyance and execute all instruments and take all actions to accomplish the conveyance. Still, it may be reasonable to expect that some unit owners may resist – particularly if the unit is their home, and/or if the mortgage indebtedness encumbering the unit exceeds the fair market value of the unit.  In light of this practical risk, when proceeding with a condominium deconversion through forced sale, it makes sense to budget for litigation expenses, and – though not legally required – to establish a settlement reserve to fund settlement buyouts when doing so makes practical business sense.

 

Condominium deconversion and sale is growing in popularity as a substantial value-add proposition for many busted condominium projects.  It can be tricky at times, but in the right circumstance, sophisticated investors are finding the financial rewards worth the added effort.

 

Do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance.

 

Thanks for listening!

Kymn

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Illinois Commercial Condominiums – The Inactive Association Challenge

RESALE DISCLOSURE CHALLENGES – When the Commercial Condominium Association is “Inactive”

  • Section 18.3 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act provides that a unit owners’ association will be responsible for the overall administration of the property through its duly elected board of managers. 765 ILCS 605/18.3.
  • Section 19 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act sets forth a specific set of records that the board of managers of every association is required to maintain. 765 ILCS 605/19.
  • Section 22.1 of the Illinois Condominium Property Act provides that “in the event of any resale of a condominium unit by a unit owner other than the developer such owner shall obtain from the board of managers and shall make available for inspection to the prospective purchaser, upon demand . . .” a fairly comprehensive list of condominium instruments, and other documents and information, concerning the makeup and financial condition of the owners association, insurance coverage, litigation, reserves, assessments, and the like.  765 ILCS 605/22.1.

 

RSP_LogoHD (3)Remarkably, perhaps as an aftermath of the Great Recession during which resales of commercial condominiums were infrequent, it is not rare to find that the owners association for a commercial condominium has become inactive or only slightly active. Record keeping and budgeting may have become ‘streamlined”, addressing little more than collecting minimal assessments to pay insurance premiums on common elements. The owner’s association may have no formal budget, no capital reserves, extreme deferred maintenance, scant, if any, record of meetings of the board of managers, and no centralized or organized record keeping system beyond a box in a filing cabinet in the back-office of one of the unit owners.

 

Because of the infrequency of unit transfers in recent years, and the possible inexperience of a record-keeper who may have gotten the record-keeping job by default – when the last remaining board member left following foreclosure of his or her unit during the Great Recession – obtaining and providing the resale disclosure documents and information required by §22.1 can be a challenge.

 

This challenge presents practical problems for the unit seller, unit buyer and the unit buyer’s proposed mortgagee when attempting to resell a commercial condominium unit. Not the least of these problems is delay and frustration in moving toward closing – which may ultimately sour a prospective buyer and its lender, and lead the buyer to back away from acquiring the unit at all.

 

Deferred maintenance of common elements affecting any unit in the condominium association could have an adverse financial impact on all unit owners.  For example, if a commercial or industrial condominium association is comprised of multiple commercial/industrial buildings, a required roof replacement, foundation repair, or other structural repair for any of the buildings, or a recognized environmental condition in the common areas, could be expensive, with the cost shared among all unit owners. Accordingly, when investigating the condition of a commercial/industrial condominium unit being considered for acquisition, due diligence may require having all common elements in the association inspected, rather than merely looking at the unit being considered for acquisition. This may be more expensive and may take more time than might ordinarily be expected when purchasing a stand-alone building that is not a condominium unit.

 

PRACTICE TIP

Consider when drafting a purchase agreement under these circumstances, who should bear the cost of inspecting all common elements in the association? Ordinarily the cost of “due diligence” is a buyer’s expense. But if extraordinary inspections of association common elements beyond the specific unit being acquired is required in the exercise of due diligence because the selling unit owner did not demand that the owners’ association be operated by a board of managers in compliance with the Illinois Condominium Property Act, should the buyer bear this extraordinary expense, or should the seller?

 

There is no easy solution for this challenge, especially for a buyer planning to purchase a unit in one of these inactive associations. The best advice may be to become proactive – whether as an existing unit owner or upon becoming a new unit owner, to reactivate and invigorate the owners’ association and its board of managers, and to take steps to run the owners association in a businesslike manner, in compliance with the Illinois Condominium Property Act.

 

Generally speaking, owners of commercial condominiums are business people. They should demand that the association be run like they would run any business or investment property they invest in, if they expect to be successful.

 

If you have a viable solution to this challenge, please comment with your insights and practical suggestions.

 

Thank you in advance for participating in this discussion.

 

Kymn

 

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