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When Can Housing Cooperatives Be Held Liable for Criminal Activity?

Housing cooperatives are not a new concept. In fact, according to the National Association of Housing Cooperatives this form of home ownership has been around in the United States since the 1800s. Co-ops can be found in communities of large apartment complexes, townhouses and even single family homes.

There are a wide range of benefits associated with participating in a housing cooperation as a co-op member instead of purchasing a home or condo. These benefits include a greater level of control over who buys into the co-op and moves into the building, lower turnover rates of residents, increased resident participation and control, lower real estate taxes as well as the ability to take a personal income tax deduction.

How is a Housing Co-op Formed?

A housing cooperative is generally formed when people join together to purchase the housing they live in. This is often done by forming a corporation, such as a not-for-profit cooperative corporation. Members of the cooperative then pay a monthly fee that covers the mortgage, taxes, management, maintenance fees and other expenses.

Housing cooperatives are not uncommon and are often found in larger cities like Detroit and Chicago. Members of the cooperative own a share in the corporation which allows the member to occupy a unit and have a say in how the cooperation is run.

How Do Liability Issues Apply to a Co-op?

Although there are many benefits to living in a co-op, things can get difficult when someone is injured or criminal activity occurs on the property.

The law applied will vary depending on the state the cooperative is located in. In Illinois, for example, the association is generally not responsible for protecting those who live within the cooperative from criminal activity. However, there are exceptions. If criminal activity is the result of poorly maintained property, the association may be liable.

Liability can also apply if the association is aware of a problem in a common area and does not take action in a timely manner to fix it. Examples can include:

  • Broken lock on a common door
  • Burnt out lights in parking lots
  • Damage to perimeter fence

Navigating cooperative housing disagreements can be difficult. In addition to determining if an exception applies, another hurdle involves the fact that the law applied depends on how the cooperative is established.

Cooperatives that are set up as a for-profit cooperation fall under the regulations of the Business Corporation Act and those that are designated as nonprofits are governed by the General Not for Profit Corporations Act.

Determining when the cooperative is potentially liable for criminal activity can be difficult. If your cooperative housing community is accused of responsibility for criminal activity, contact an experienced housing cooperative law attorney to better ensure your legal rights and remedies are protected.