May 15, 2018
This is What It’s Like Living in a Condo in Chicago
This is What It’s Like Living in a Condo in Chicago
By LLCR Staff

Welcome to the Windy City

Congratulations! You’ve purchased a downtown Chicago condo and have moved in. You’re going to love living in this city. Whether you already lived here, relocated for a new career opportunity, or just needed a change of scenery, Chicago is a place where you can live life to the fullest.

Living in a condo is part of the downtown Chicago lifestyle. Having a home that’s close to fine dining, exceptional shopping, professional opportunities, endless activities, and more are all part of the experience. (And if our teamassisted you with your condo purchase, thank you for your trust!)

Now that the dust has settled and you’ve moved into your condo, here are steps you can take to adjust to your new home.

Don’t Do Chicago Alone — Make Friends

Chicago is a bustling metropolis with loads of nightlife, daytime adventures, and recreational activities. So enjoy them with like-minded people! Thankfully, making friends in a new city isn’t as hard as you think. It just takes some proactivity on your part and a willingness to try new things. Here are a few ways you can get started:

  • Start with neighbors. Introduce yourself to people who live in nearby units. They’re the ones you’ll run into the most, so it will help if you know who they are. And make sure to use your condo’s common areas, especially those with pools, bars, and other gathering spots. Many condos will also plan events for residents, so be sure to attend and participate.
  • Explore. Go out and about! Chicago is a great place to explore — you’ll find a new restaurant, gallery, bar, or another type of hot spot each time you venture out. If you’ve started a new job, talk to your coworkers about fun things to do (and believe us, there’s plenty in Chicago!). Because communication is more natural between coworkers than neighbors, people will be more likely to share their ideas and even invite you along with them.
  • Use social sites. There are loads of popular sites and apps that allow you to meet people with similar interests and passions (and they’re not all for dating!). On Meetup alone, there are hundreds of different groups that gather to do everything from wine tastings to writing code. Facebook Groups also has a number of options to explore. Easiest of all, think about what you already enjoy doing. Like jazz? There are a number of festivals and clubs to try.

Understand the Responsibilities of Your Condo Association

Your condo association exists to serve you and other residents as well as to maintain the integrity of the condo building itself. When buying the condo, you should have reviewed the association’s governing documents and policies in depth. If not, get on it — they have a significant impact on your time in your new home.

Overall, condo association responsibilities can be broad or limited in scope. One association may only be involved in the high-level financial and structural management of the building itself, while others might manage services that residents enjoy on a day-to-day basis. These might include laundry or cleaning services, among others.

If you’re having a problem with a neighbor, the association may be able to assist if the issue is covered in the governing documents. For example, say a resident living above you recently put down new flooring, yet you’re experiencing more noise than ever. The association can step in to verify whether the new floor is up to code and compliant with its policies. If a dog next door is barking at all hours of the night, the association may leave it to you to resolve directly with your neighbor.

What Makes a Good HOA Board Member?

Since we’re discussing condo associations, it’s important to understand your association’s board and what makes a good HOA board member. At some point, you may consider getting involved with your board. Not only does this give you the opportunity to impact your own residency, but it also gives you the chance to make a difference for other residents and the building as a whole.

The association’s governing documents specify the responsibilities and scope of the association board and its officers. Their overall responsibilities might be limited to basic maintenance and finance, or they may be responsible for services provided to residents. Read your association’s policies and governing documents to understand what the board’s responsibilities are.

As a board member, your role will be much like that of a leader in a business. Depending on how tasks are delegated or assigned, you may be involved in financial matters such as setting and maintaining a budget, maintaining a reserve fund, ensuring the building has adequate insurance, and gathering assessments (more on these shortly). You may also be involved in legal tasks such as selecting an attorney for the association, analyzing association rules against local laws, enforcing rules, and ensuring that other board members with financial responsibilities are protected.

Ultimately, serving on your association’s board is a significant responsibility — and a meaningful opportunity. You’ll have the opportunity to serve your fellow residents and maintain a piece of Chicago architecture and history for the years to come.

Be Prepared for Condo Association Special Assessments

Much like living in a single-family home, living in a condo comes with certain fees that must be paid. Whereas owners of single-family homes typically have to pay a homeowners association (HOA) fee, condo owners have to pay condo association fees (also called assessments). These fees cover the costs of maintaining common areas and keeping up the building’s exterior and are typically paid monthly or annually, depending on your association.

However, a situation might arise in which the condo association needs additional funds beyond the standard dues. These are called condo association special assessment. Examples include the need to fix a damaged roof, repave the parking lot, fix landscaping ruined by a disaster, or cover shortfalls in the association’s budget.

In a perfect world, special assessments wouldn’t happen. But situations do indeed arise, and by living in a condo, you’ve agreed to pay these costs when and if they are required.

Keep in mind that you’re not alone when special assessments occur. Other residents are also being charged this expense, and you’re all in it together. Depending on your association’s governing documents, there may be limits on special assessments and how often they can be levied. If you’re hit with an assessment, don’t hesitate to contact your association to learn more.

How to Take Care of Condo Repairs

Now that you’ve moved in and are familiar with the ins and outs of your association, you can begin to enjoy downtown Chicago living. As time passes and you adjust to living in your condo, you may want to change things around a bit. Or, as with all homes, a repair or two might be needed.

Tastes change. Wear and tear is a normal part of owning a home. But knowing how to go about making these changes to your condo matters.

First, know whether it’s your responsibility. For smaller cosmetic changes like painting — yeah, it’s your responsibility. For major cosmetic changes, like moving a wall, remodeling a bathroom, or changing some aspect of the condo that could affect neighbors, discuss your plans with the association first. The governing documents might restrict what you can do or require you to use a specific contractor.

If condo repairs are required because something was incorrectly installed during construction or renovation prior to you buying the condo, you should also consult your association first. The original contractor may be liable for the work or required to make repairs under warranty. For minor occurrences, such as scuffing a wall or knocking a closet door off its tracks, you may be able to make the repairs yourself — provided you have the skills.

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