Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Sixth Division
from the Circuit Court of Cook County. No. 14 M1125041
Honorable John Allegretti, Judge Presiding.
ROCHFORD JUSTICE delivered the judgment of the court, with
opinion. Presiding Justice Hoffman and Justice nningham
concurred in the judgment and opinion.
1 Plaintiff-appellant, Blackstone Condominium Association,
appeals the denial of its attorney fee petition. We affirm.
2 Defendant-appellee, Maya Speights-Carnegie, was the owner
of a condominium unit located at 6509 S. Blackstone Avenue,
Unit 1, in Chicago. On October 6, 2011, plaintiff filed a
forcible entry and detainer action against defendant for
failure to pay her condominium assessments. The trial court
entered an order for possession, after which defendant filed
a motion to vacate. In the interim, the unit was foreclosed
upon by Chase Home Finance, LLC. The motion was granted, and
the order for possession was vacated on March 30, 2012.
Plaintiff decided to not proceed with the forcible entry and
detainer action because defendant no longer had a possessory
interest in the unit.
3 On April 29, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint against
defendant, alleging she had failed to pay condominium
assessments, from February 2010 through January 2012, in
violation of section 9(a) of the Condominium Property Act,
which provides that "[i]t shall be the duty of each unit
owner including the developer to pay his proportionate share
of the common expenses commencing with the first
conveyance." 765 ILCS 605/9(a) (West 2014). Plaintiff
sought $6, 396 in damages, plus attorney fees and costs. On
the civil action cover sheet, filed with the complaint,
plaintiff characterized its complaint as being one of breach
of contract. The case was assigned to a general small claims
4 A bench trial was held on April 8, 2015, after which the
trial court entered judgment in favor of plaintiff in the
amount of $4, 301, plus costs. Defendant filed a motion for
reconsideration, and the trial court reduced the judgment to
5 On August 7, 2015, plaintiff filed its petition for
attorney fees. On November 29, 2015, the trial court denied
plaintiff's petition, finding that the underlying action
was for breach of contract, but that plaintiff had failed to
produce a written instrument or condominium declaration
providing for attorney fees in the event of a breach by
6 Plaintiff filed this timely appeal.
7 "Illinois follows the 'American rule, ' which
prohibits prevailing parties from recovering their attorney
fees from the losing party, absent express statutory or
contractual provisions. [Citation.] Accordingly, statutes
which allow for such fees must be strictly construed as they
are in derogation of the common law." Sandholm v.
Kuecker, 2012 IL 111443, ¶ 64.
8 Plaintiff argues that it incurred attorney fees while
litigating its breach of contract action against defendant to
recover her share of the condominium assessments she had
defaulted on, and that it is entitled to recovery of those
attorney fees from defendant under section 9.2(b) of the
Property Act, which states:
"Any attorneys' fees incurred by the Association
arising out of a default by any unit owner, his tenant,
invitee or guest in the performance of any of the provisions
of the condominium instruments, rules and regulations or any
applicable statute or ordinance shall be added to, and deemed
a part of, his respective share of the common
expense[s]."765 ILCS 605/9.2(b) (West 2014).
9 Plaintiff argues that, under section 9.2(b), the attorney
fees here became part of defendant's unpaid share of the
common expenses, which were recoverable by plaintiff.
However, we note that section 9.2(b) does not explicitly
provide for how plaintiff is to recover
defendant's unpaid share of the common expenses,
including attorney fees. Board of Directors of Warren
Boulevard Condominium Ass'n v. Milton, 399
Ill.App.3d 922 (2010), is informative as to how such common
expenses may be recovered. In Milton, we held that
the relevant statutory provisions of the Condominium Property
Act (765 ILCS 605/1 et seq. (West 2008)), and the
Forcible Entry and Detainer Act (735 ILCS 5/9-101 et
seq. (West 2008)), set forth the appropriate procedure
available to a condominium association for remedying a
default in the obligations of a unit owner. Milton,
399 Ill.App.3d at 923-24. Specifically, we noted that
sections 9(g)(1) and 9(h) of the Condominium Property Act
(765 ILCS 605/9(g)(1), (h) (West 2008)), provide that, if a
unit owner fails to make a timely payment of common expenses,
the amount due shall constitute a lien on the interest of the
unit owner in the property, which may be foreclosed upon by
the board of managers of the condominium association.
Milton, 399 Ill.App.3d at 924. We also noted that