What can homeowners associations enforce in Illinois? Here’s what state law allows

If you’re a part of a homeowners or condominium association in Illinois that has a long list of rules, you may have wondered just how much authority they have and what you should do if you feel like you are unfairly fined.

Illinois has three primary pieces of legislation governing homeowners associations, including the Illinois Condominium Property Act, the Illinois Common Interest Community Association Act and the General Not For Profit Corporation Act of 1986.

The Illinois Common Interest Community Association Act applies to homeowners associations that collect more than $100,000 per year in dues and have at least 11 private residences. Entities that do not meet these requirements fall under the general nonprofit act in Illinois, Teri Ross, executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, said in an interview with the News-Democrat.

Homeowners associations typically use management companies, which must be licensed in the state of Illinois and are regulated.

Generally, the main goals of the associations are to maintain or increase property values and to maintain common elements, Ross added. Common elements for condo buildings may include elevators, lobbies, a parking garage and external features.

“They can require things to look in a certain way,” Ross said of the associations.

Rules on lawn maintenance, when and where to put trash cans outside and maintaining your home’s external appearance can all be included in contracts.

“So it’s really important that people read over all of those things to understand what their obligations are,” Ross said.

Homeowners associations can also enact rules regarding pets, including a limit on the number of pets one unit can have, a weight limit, leash requirements and more. They may not prohibit service animals or place size restrictions on them.

While homeowners associations can include a wide variety of regulations in their contracts, Illinois law does regulate them. For example, homeowners associations must comply with all local ordinances and state and federal laws regarding anti-discrimination and fair housing.

Homeowners associations in Illinois must hold a vote before levying special assessments, such as fees for improvements like tuckpointing, repaving or landscaping. They must also have governing boards that meet at least once per year and submit an annual budget. All members of the association have the right to attend board meetings and review documents.

Illinois homeowner associations cannot prohibit residents from installing a satellite dish or antenna, displaying an American flag, displaying a military flag or putting religious fixtures on their front door.

State law also gives residents in communities with homeowners associations the right to install solar panels, and as of Jan. 1, Illinois homeowners associations cannot prohibit the installation of electric vehicle chargers.

What if your HOA unfairly fines you?

Homeowners associations in Illinois are required to give notice of a violation before fining a resident and must give them a “fair chance” to be heard if they disagree with the fine, Ross said.

To exercise this right, you can request a hearing with the board of your homeowners association to argue you did not commit the violation or the association’s bylaws don’t actually prohibit what you did.

If the board finds you did violate the rules and you did not, you could sue the association. Ross recommends choosing a lawyer that has specific expertise in homeowners or condo association law if you go this route.

If your homeowners association violates your rights by discriminating against you as part of a protected class, you can file a report with the Illinois Department of Human Rights.

Do you have a question about the law in Illinois for our service journalism team? We’d like to hear from you. Fill out our Metro-east Matters form below.