Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Gambler

There’s a great 70’s song by Kenny Rogers that has the refrain:

“You got to know when to hold ‘em\know when to fold ‘em\know when to walk away and know when to run\You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table\They’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

Despite the fact that Kenny Rogers bears a close resemblance to Grizzly Adams, his lyrics have a timeless point.

You’ve been hearing the wailing and the gnashing of the teeth about the deadbeats. I know in the back of your heads you’re thinking, “Buck up buttercup---what are you gonna do about it?”

Well kids, modesty and plain old simple common sense prevent me from disclosing a plan of action at this time. After all the very people who have got us into this situation may very well be reading my tomes right along with you, gentle reader.

Only a true dumb ass would tip his or her hand. But I will leave you with an insight into my personality and this image.

I actually got money back from a mortgage company after they made me pay a pre-payment fee for refinancing with another company. Trust me, that little episode is a story unto itself. Let’s suffice it to say when the words “predatory lending” and a twenty page packet goes out to every elected official I could think of plus Ms. Oprah; you’d be surprised how quickly someone will cut you a check.

Naturally it took some time and effort on my end, but the point is I still prevailed.

Even though the validity of the intelligence of the fierce raptor breed of dinosaur continues to be debated, one of my favorite things about the Jurassic Park series is how smart and determined they were for a warm blooded meal.

When they couldn’t overwhelm you with their strength or with their numbers, they would try and run you down. When they couldn’t run you down, they simply lowered their head in the tall grass and waited for the sucker that would be their next meal to make a mistake. Eyes glinting, visions of Homo Sapiens cutlets running through their heads

Consider my head lowered.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Deadbeats

Assuming my math is correct and not counting attorney's fees, billables and expenses the four owners in foreclosure owe us approximately


Obviously that number very well may double when the remainders of the special assessment totals are thrown into the mix.

Monday, September 26, 2005


The fourth unit owner in foreclosure is something of a mystery.

I know he has a job yet he not only stopped paying his mortgage but also stopped actually living in his unit well over a year ago. In keeping with the trend set by the rest of our other non-resident owners in foreclosure, he is also severely behind in his assessments.

I will say this---he did give us a chunk of money earlier this year but hasn’t paid a dime since.

As if our bills get paid on his time table.

I’ve stated in an earlier post that I’ve been in the none too enviable spot of being behind in my assessments as well. I very can’t call people to the carpet about their irresponsibility if I don’t acknowledge my own shortcomings.

That being said, the big difference between my situation and my foreclosed upon neighbor’s situations is that I never once attempted to duck, dodge or hide from my financial responsibilities. I met with the board when they requested to see me, we hammered out an agreement, and I not only kept to the agreement but paid my arrearage off early.

But then of course that’s just me.

I have an even deeper appreciation of making sure that assessments get paid in a timely manner now that I actually sit on the board.

The fourth unit owner---his name is Maurice Cousin by the way---has put his unit on the market despite his foreclosure. Before, anyone asks---yes he can do that as he is still the legal owner of the property.

If you’d like to look up the case in the county clerk’s file go to case number 2005-CH-03798.

His actions are curious, no?

Talk To Me

I've turned on the e-mail feature within my profile section so you will be able to send me any burning questions you may have.

Keep it clean, respectful and blog relavant and you'll receive a prompt reply.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A Bright Spot

There are glimmers of hope between the fits of drama in the association.

Yesterday we were able to get about 40 free perrenials from Greencorps via the city's department of environment. I've always wanted to try my hand at landscaping the four huge beds we have in the front of our buildings but money has always been an issue.

When you're fighting for your financial life, gardening takes a back seat to---oh let's say---keeping the water running.

Nonetheless, I was able to find out about the giveaway and now we have plants. Gardening is a great stress reliever for me and it will also give us greater curb appeal.

It's a no cost win-win situation. Frankly I think we could stand to have a few more of those.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Three Blind Mice

The three non-resident unit owners that are in foreclosure are a curious lot.

From the information that I’ve been able to dig up I can see that they’re all relatively young and they all live in the south suburbs.

The only other common thread is that they either bought units with existing CHAC renters or purchased units that they soon enrolled in the CHAC program.

For those of you not familiar with the CHAC, it is a subsidized program that assists low income and moderate low income families with paying their rent.

My point in bringing this up is that coming up with money to move is a daunting task for some people. Whether you’re laying down a deposit---hiring movers or just having your friends help you out, the cash outlay can be financially draining. I can imagine that coming up with money to move for renters that take part in a federally subsidized program may have posed its own special set of problems.

Additionally, if you want to stay in the Housing Voucher program you have to physically go down to the CHAC office during there regular business hours and request moving papers. Then you have to actually find a landlord who will take the voucher for your rent. From what I’ve been told choice affordable housing is difficult to find. With seemingly every apartment building going condo, moderate and low income renters are increasingly getting squeezed out of neighborhoods and in some cases the city itself.

Obviously our three non-resident unit owners don’t understand the difficulty of such matters because if they had, they wouldn’t have just stopped paying their mortgages and monthly assessments.

As far as I’m concerned, their lack of fiduciary responsibility all but displaced the renters in those three units.

Owner #1---Ryan Hudson is being sued for foreclosure on 13 different properties.

Owner #2---Jamal Sanford is being sued for foreclosure on 5 different properties.

Owner #3—Akwetee Butler is being sued for foreclosure on 5 different properties.

Skeptical? Think I’m giving you the business? Plug those names into the on-line case info link for the chancery division and look for yourselves.

I’m simply amazed not only by the scope of the foreclosures within our association but the number of other small and mid-sized associations that are also losing assessment monies.

It’s simply mind boggling.

As we all know, heat and light bills just don’t get paid by wishing it so.

More importantly, people’s lives and shelter is being affected. One day you think everything is fine and the next you realize that your home has a new owner and they want you out of there.

While I’m not a big fan of rentals in a condo association, as long as we have to have them the renters should be treated with the same respect that every other resident receives. I can’t think of anything more disrespectful than some rock head’s fiscal irresponsibility putting someone out of their home.

For the record, we had more trouble with the absentee unit owners than with the renters.


You know the popular saying---crazy is expecting a different results from the same set of actions. Why did I think that speaking with my developer today would yield anything other than a metaphorical huge middle finger to the association.

Why did I speak with him?

His daughter owns a rental unit in our association. She is over 60 days late in her regular and special assessments. Subsequently we put a lien on her unit as we refer out owners who are over two months behind on their assessments.

Trust me, it’s not like I haven’t been there and if I fall behind on my assessments I fully expect to get the same treatment as anyone else. I now have a better appreciation on how difficult it is to run a condo association when everyone pays late. That all being said, we have to mean what we say---if you’re 61 days late, out to the lawyer you go. No questions, no phone calls---you get referred to the lawyer. Done deal.

Apparently Mr. Developer man didn’t understand this concept.

When I spoke with him on the phone today, he was quite upset that a lien had been placed on his daughter’s unit.

He first said that the late assessments weren’t his fault as he was relying on our president to get the correct totals for what his daughter owed. I asked him why he would call our president for information he should have been getting from our treasurer.

“I didn’t have her phone number.”

It’s never his fault. The “experienced developer” can’t be expected to keep up on the piss ant billings of our association. Not my problem.

When I wasn’t buying that load of crap, he huffed that he was looking into suing us as it was unreasonable to place a lien on someone’s property after 60 days and that we were unfairly targeting his daughter.

Okay, right. Bring it.

To waste my breath telling him that we throw liens on everyone in the same state of arrears would---well---be a waste of breath.

When I went on to describe the association has an almost $4,500 judgment due to his fines and subsequent non-notification, he was silent. When I explained to him that he was going to have to reimburse us for any monies paid out, he stated:

“I’m not paying anything.”

He sounded like a spoiled, petulant child. Dial it down Paris Hilton.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No, He Really Does Suck---The Total

The total of the previous mentioned judgement (As of 9/20/05):


And it goes up .64 cents every day. It may not seem like alot but multiply by 365 and then by four years.

Needless to say it adds up, eh?

The lesson: Never let your developer become your registered agent AND your condo president in the great State of Illinois. Also check with your local county clerk of records and make sure your association has no outstanding littigation or judgements against them.

Holy crap...

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Flow

Sorry to interrupt the flow but I just had to share this one with you good people.

My developer has not one but TWO social security numbers.

I compared the social security number from his bankruptcy filing with the social security number listed on a complaint the City of Chicago filed against him and lo and behold, they were different.

There could be compelling reasons why an individual would have two social security numbers; one could be a regular social security number the other could be a tax ID number for business purposes.

If my developer comes to our monthly association meeting tonight, I will ask him. Perhaps there is a good reason why he uses both social security numbers in his business dealings.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's Just An Investment

I’m of the personal opinion that non-resident owner-investors are a pain in the ass. They don’t want to be your neighbor, they don’t want to break bread with you, and they don’t want to make the tough decisions regarding the well being of our home.

They simply look at their unit in the association as an investment. Not a home---an investment and they treat it like one.

The only time they seemingly come out of the woodwork is when assessments are going to be raised or to vote down spending any money for improvements in the building.

Like I said, pains in the ass.

Unfortunately for us, our association has had four such people already own several units in the scant time we’ve been in existence. As of this writing, three of the non-resident owner units are in or have gone through foreclosure.

I shit you not.

I alluded to the foreclosures in a previous post but now I need to give you the real skinny so you completely understand the situation.

This calendar year our association has had a total of four units foreclosed upon. Three of them were owned by non-resident investors and the last one is owned by a guy who simply stopped paying his mortgage. The three individual owners were the second generation owners of those units. Our developer wanted to get rid of the last of his stock and sold three units to a single investor who after a year sold it to the three other individual yahoos who are presently being foreclosed upon.

Did I happen to mention that when the first owner sold his units, he neglected to pay his back assessments upon closing? Or at least that’s what I was told by someone who was on the board at the time. Then of course no one could prove any financial wrongdoings since we don’t have complete financial records or bank statements for any year that our association has been in existence except for this year.

But I digress…

I’m sure you’re asking yourself how in God’s name could one association have the stunning bad luck to have so many foreclosures? How could people just stop paying their mortgage?

Well folks it gets better.

Not only did these knuckleheads not pay their mortgages, they also didn’t pay their assessments. These four individuals combine to owe us over four thousand dollars in back assessments.

Four large, four g’s---anyway you put it; it’s a lot of money for a cash strapped condo association.

Repeat after me, “Investor owners are a pain in the ass.”

The new wrinkle in this ongoing soap opera is that several of my neighbors are going to potentially get married and now want to either sell their units or rent them. Most don’t want the hassle of renting their units and managing tenants but our recently discovered electrical problem (don’t ask---you’ll find out soon enough) means that the units will be all but impossible to sell.

While I very much understand their plight, it leaves us with a great big riddle that no one can seem to solve. How do we keep our association from being overrun by rental units by owners who won’t or can’t sell because of the defects in the building?

I can’t believe I’m not in AA yet.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

No, He Really Does Suck

Just when I think I’ve seen every possible trick employed by this guy, more questionable dealings surface making me ponder how this man ever sleeps at night.

God, how can I even begin this story?

Our developer also owns a property management company called III CD Management. III CD managed a rental building at 7527-7529 South Colfax here in the city. Obviously he didn’t have too good of a management style as he was cited by the city for five separate plumbing violations. After an administrative hearing, a judgment was entered against him for $500 for each count plus an additional $50 in court costs for a total of $2,550.

You’d think that would be the end of it, right? How in God’s name could we as a completely separate entity be dragged in the middle of this mess?

Easy---the city cited us as his employer. How they made that assumption still boggles me.

At the time, our developer was also the president and the registered agent of our condo association. All of our mail was going to his place of business. When the court attempted to reach us about the garnishment of our “employee’s” wages, we never had any idea that legal paperwork was being sent. Our developer also never mentioned this little outstanding issue to anyone on the board at the time. When we didn’t respond to the court’s request for a garnishment, we wound up stuck with the total amount of the judgment for over $2,700.

Brilliant, huh?

You ignore the basic needs of people, blow off the courts and a judgment and then knowingly manipulate the system so a group of people who had nothing to do with your dirt wind up paying the tab.

I can only shake my head.

Monday, September 12, 2005

How the City that works---works. A Chicago Primer

As of this writing, the city of broad shoulders is awash in political scandal after political scandal. Water department employees selling drugs on city time, patronage hiring outside of the Shakman Decree (legislating political hiring and firing in Chicago) and a hired truck program that allegedly steered city business to influentially connected firms. In return, among other things, those businesses gave kick backs to those who got the firm’s foot in the door. This wave of scandals have led to an uprising among Chicagoans and cast doubt on Mayor Daley’s future.

We here in Chicago don’t so much mind the everyday corruption but when both the city and the county keep on talking about budget shortfalls and our property taxes triple, well my friends---people look a tad harder at scandals that waste taxpayer money.

Plus it also goes to the fairness issue. I don’t want to sound like Pollyanna here but folks seem to get pissed about a handful of connected people getting fat off of the public trough while the rest of us can’t even get a seat at the table. Not only can’t we get a seat, but we also have to pay---through our outrageous tax bills might I add---for the privilege of NOT being connected. Nutty, huh?

The best exchange to describe how the city that works---works is this oft recited ditty:

Political Boss: “Who are you? Who sent you?”
Applicant: “No one sent me.”
Political Boss: “I don’t want to talk to somebody that nobody sent.”

Why is this important?

Perhaps that can start to explain why it’s so painfully slow to get permits from the Department of Construction and Permits for the City of Chicago (DCAP). Frankly it’s getting even slower as the department is awash in it’s own little scandal.

Apparently someone in the department didn’t think it was a problem that some real estate developers take a few DCAP staffers on all expense paid trips to exotic locales. This individual also didn’t think that a conflict of interest would occur between the people trying to get permits pushed through paying for vacations that a city paycheck couldn’t provide for the people doing the approving. Go figure.

More’s the pity---that person lost his job and as a result the construction permit process for everybody in the City of Chicago has practically ground to a halt.

Smooth move ex-lax.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

This Just In

The bank called on Thursday to tell us that we got the loan!

The terms need to be reviewed and the papers need to signed off then they cut the check. I'm so excited! Perhaps another minor miracle will occur and we can get our demolition and building permits before the end of the year so construction can start.

Yowsa! Things are moving forward. Our hard work is paying off. Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


Assuming my condo association gets the loan; our back porch construction timeline should look a little something like this:

Mid September to October 1st, 2005
The loan is approved and the final bank paperwork gets signed off. We also sign the contract with our porch vendor and put down a 20% deposit.

October 1st, 2005
The porch vendor starts the multi-step demolition and construction permit process with DCAP (The Department of Construction and Permits for the City of Chicago). They would also come out and reinforce our current porches (for free might I add) so their condition does not further deteriorate while waiting for the permits to be granted.

February 14th, 2006
Assuming everything went smoothly---all of the drawings, blueprints and plans have been accepted from the porch vendor. The permits to demolish our old porches and construct new ones may be granted.

March 17th, 2006
Once again---assuming all goes well; construction on the porches may start and hopefully be completed before Easter.

What’s with the gaps of time? Why does it take so long? Well friends, let me give you a basic primer (as I understand it) for dealing with the bureaucracy that surrounds getting anything built in the City of Chicago.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The Loan

Well here’s where it gets interesting folks. We need money to get the porch project started but it would seem that we may not be the best credit risk at this point.

Let’s go over what we know so far:
We can’t find our bank account or records prior to June 2003
Association accounting was sketchy at best and hadn’t been properly formatted on a spreadsheet
Several unit owners were severely delinquent on their assessments.
As an association we were hemorrhaging money from a bloated budget

Financially attractive, no?

Now let’s all talk about that dirty word that isn’t supposed to exist either in lending or the real estate market in general---redlining. Redlining can be defined in several different ways:

Unfair discrimination based not on the risk’s characteristics but on its location. The term is commonly associated with an insurer’s refusal to consider insuring any home or business within a specific area marked by a line drawn on a map.


A lending practice, now illegal, where banks drew red lines around communities of color and low-income communities and refused to make loans in those neighborhoods.

I strongly suspected that we weren't an attractive loan risk as I work for a bank and I’ve gone through the mortgage and refinancing process several times. The way our record keeping and cash flow was, our application wouldn’t make it through underwriting at any of the big downtown LaSalle Street banks. Even if we did look good on paper and had a sizeable reserve fund, we’d still have a problem getting a loan from any on the downtown banks.

Naturally I’m not accusing anyone of anything but I have a feeling on how this process would for a troubled association in Chicago’s 5th poorest neighborhood. The best analogy I can think of is this: If you see a pothole in the road, are you gonna drive through it and possibly bust your axle or drive around it and continue your trip?

Obviously we want to drive around it and continue our trip.

Knowing the set of obstacles that we would face with a mainstream financial institution---even with good financials---it was up to us to find someone who understood the special needs of a small association with a cash flow problem, infrastructure issues that also happen to reside in an emerging neighborhood. But nonetheless saw the great potential in both the condo association and the Woodlawn neighborhood.

Not too tough of a job, huh?

After researching our potential options and speaking with some institutions, I discovered our friends at a smaller bank named Shore Bank.

Shore Bank, which was formerly known as South Shore Bank, is a bank based on the south side of Chicago who believes in the power of the neighborhoods where they’re located. When many of the LaSalle Street banks weren’t even attempting to originate mortgages or commercial loans on the south and west sides of Chicago, Shore Bank was (and is) filling that void.

So I go ahead and make a few phone calls on the association’s behalf, find a contact name and request the paperwork to get the ball rolling. I received the paperwork, forwarded it on to our treasurer who with our president completed it and the preliminary loan officer interviews.

I believe we stressed that as an association we significantly tightened up our financial ship and started adhering to standard business practices. In short we’re treating our condo association less like a club and more like a business.

Our loan officer has given us every indication that we’re on track to get the loan but as far as I'm concerned, the loan isn’t done until the check is in our account and has cleared. After all, we turned in our application in either late June or early July and have yet to get a solid answer (fingers crossed).

I’m optimistic that this will work out but I still want the money in the bank so we can get to those porches.

The year is winding down and more than likely we won’t be able to have our new porches built until next year the way the DCAP (Chicago Department of Construction and Permits) timeline is looking.

London Bridge

When I think of the children’s song “London Bridge is Falling Down” I tend to think of our back porches.

To put it mildly, our porches are a Lincoln Park tragedy waiting to happen. To those of your not in the know about Chicago land news, roughly two years ago groups of people in an apartment building were having a party in one of the more popular north side neighborhoods named Lincoln Park. As with most parties with recent college grads and twenty somethings that comprise a good part of the population in Lincoln Park, guests spilled out on to the back porches. The porches fell under the strain of the numerous people and pan caked one on top of the other causing thirteen deaths and multiple casualties.

In short, it was a nightmare---one I don’t want repeated in our little neck of the woods. The last thing we need is friggin lawsuits flying around and deaths and/or injuries to contend with.

As a result we have spent a majority of this calendar year getting estimates, doing due diligence on contractors and trying to figure out how in God’s name were going to pay for it all.

At first we were simply going to repair our porches but as the estimates started rolling in and individual after individual told us the dire state of our porches, our project turned from a repair to a replace. Either way, we weren’t (and aren’t) even remotely prepared to deal with the City of Chicago Department of Buildings and their brutal permit process.

Ladies and Gentlemen the bureaucracy surrounding getting anything built or getting a permit to get anything built in the city of Chicago is simply frightening. I’d rather be thrown in the stocks without food and water for a few days. I’d rather take Calculus again than even attempt to negotiate that nightmare of a process downtown. The thought of going to DCAP (Department of Construction and Permits) honestly breaks me out in a rash.

Some of the yahoos that we got estimates from expected us, a bunch of novices, to navigate the getting blueprints, a structural engineer, an architect and chat with a project manager from DCAP all on our own.

Yeah right…

While we were murky on who was going to do the work at that point, we did come up with a budget for the porches and some other work that we wanted to get done and start the process of levying a special assessment.

Now I know that the process sounds a little ass backwards but we had to start collecting money for whatever portion of the project had to be done. We couldn’t wait too much longer to get the financial portion together lest we spin our wheels and the project never gets off the ground.

Nonetheless, we as an association also had a “Plan B” in our back pocket.

As I’ve mentioned, our porches are in horrible at best. They really are in the process of falling down and should have been either repaired or replaced when the building was rehabbed. The catch 22 is that seeing that people couldn’t come up with their portion of he special assessment out of thin air, we had to offer several types of payment plans with full up front payment being the optimal option.

Obviously that was not going to be an option with most of our unit owners. Myself included.

We need the money right away to fix our porches but there was no way several tens of thousands of dollars was going to materialize out of nowhere. What’s a cash strapped association to do?

Get a bank loan of course.