They say “Tis the season to be jolly”. Unfortunately, for some associations, owners are the exact opposite.

Recently I received an inquiry from a homeowner requesting information on how to remove the board of directors of his association. The board for his association recently sent out a proposed budget with a large increase. He does not want to pay the increase, so rather than determine whether the additional funds are necessary to administer the affairs of the association, he wants to remove the board members.

This type of complaint is not uncommon when living in an association. There are always owners who are upset about a board decision, especially when it involves money. However, just because the board has made an unpopular decision, does not mean they should be removed from office.

I have attended a number of meetings called for the purpose of removing the board or a member of the board. Generally, the purpose of the removal is not for a dishonest act, but because the board has made a necessary but unpopular decision. The most common is what this owner is complaining of – adopting a large special assessment or increasing the budget to fund overdue maintenance, repair and/or replacement of the common property.

While attending these meetings, I have noticed the owners are much more understanding if the board is able to communicate the reasons for the decision. As such, we recommend that if the board is anticipating a large increase in the budget or another controversial decision, that communication with the owners begin immediately. Due to the lack of owner attendance at a board meeting, it may not be enough to simply discuss the proposed decision at a meeting. At the very least, the discussion should be set forth in the minutes and it is also a good idea to publish an article in the Association’s newsletter stating the proposed decision, the reasons for it and if an assessment is being considered, the proposed amount. If there is no newsletter, the Association may want to send out an announcement to the owners. Although a number of owners may not bother to read the information, the board has gone the extra step to communicate with the owners. With greater communication, you lessen the chances of having disgruntled owners.

Even with the best communication, there still may be upset homeowners. These owners should understand that the board members, who also are owners, are bound by their decisions. Often I hear owners say that the board is being unfair to the owners by enacting an assessment or adopting certain rules. This does not make sense since the board members, like all the owners, must pay the assessment or comply with the rules. The board members have the responsibility to make the decision which they believe to be in the best interest of the association. They should not be ridiculed for making this decision, but given credit for caring enough about the property to devote their valuable time at no charge and risk criticism from their neighbors.

With the above being said, my response to this owner is that under Illinois law, a board member may be removed for any reason. Generally, the removal of a board member must take place at a special owners meeting called for such purpose. At this meeting, a certain percentage of the owners must vote to remove the board member(s). This percentage should be set forth in the association’s declaration, and if it is not, Illinois law provides that two-thirds of those owners voting at a meeting called for such purpose may remove the board member.

If a board member is removed, the vacancy can be filled by the remaining board members or by an election called by the owners.

My advice is that, prior to trying to remove the board member, a more effective approach is to talk to the board members and gather accurate information. You may find that your board is actually doing an excellent job and has no alternative but to act in this manner.

Originally published in the Pioneer Press (December 2003).


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