A Chicago lawyer known for appearing in commercials to promote his bankruptcy "info tapes" filed a complaint this week, accusing his condo association of preventing him and his wife from enjoying their roof deck.
In a complaint filed Monday, Peter Francis Geraci, and his wife, Holly, asked the Cook County Circuit Court to order Union Square Condominium Association to repair a wall on the roof and let them complete improvements to their private deck, or appoint a receiver to do the work.
The Geracis assert their joint ownership of a condo at 333 W. Hubbard St. provides them with the exclusive right to use a 5,000 square foot area of the building’s roof above their unit, something they say they did year-round “until the Association started barring [them] from their own deck area in 2011."
According to the complaint, the couple’s deck “adds more than $1 million in value to their unit" and “was given the Mayor’s award for most beautiful deck; is one of the largest in the city with fantastic views, motorized awnings, a penthouse with a kitchen and workout facilities, sprinkling system, herb, vegetable and flower gardens, putting green, sitting areas and furniture.”
The issue stems from the August 2013 decision of the association's board of managers to order the Geracis, and other condo owners with private roof spaces, to stay off their decks until further notice as a wall on the roof presented a "life and safety issue as well as a construction defect problem," complaint states.
A professional engineering firm hired by the association supposedly deemed the parapet wall-- “the part of the exterior building wall that extends above the roof line”-- unstable and defective because steel reinforcing bars inside it were not connected to the reinforcing bars in the roof deck when it was built 15 years ago.
Before that announcement, the Geracis assert they and the other condo owners with private roof decks had to remove their decking and pipe railings, which were attached to the wall when it was constructed, for a roof replacement.
Although that project is over, the Geracis claim the association won't let them use their deck until they replace the railings, but won't allow them to do that, despite having a city building permit and plans previously approved by the association, because it says the railings can't be attached to the parapet wall until it's fixed.
The association, however, has refused to repair the parapet wall and indicated it would be another year before it considered doing the work, the couple's complaint alleges.
The Geracis contend they haven’t been able to use their deck for four years – due to the parapet wall issue last year and various construction projects between 2011 and 2013 – and if the court doesn't step in, won’t be able to use it for another year.
Not only do the Geracis take issue with the association's alleged refusal to immediately fix the problem, but they have a problem with how it proposes to eventually make the repair.
The Geracis say the association’s proposal from its engineers “involves major destruction of the parapet wall and a protruding beam system that will encroach on” their deck.
While the board supposedly “refuses to divulge the cost," the Geracis say they believe the proposal's price tag for their area of the wall is about $400,000, and about $1.6 million for the entire project.
They allegedly hired a Chicago construction company to do its own analysis, and based on that, think it would cost less than $200,000 to fix the parapet wall on their deck , which accounts for about 27 percent of the entire wall.
“The Association has over $500,000 in reserves it could use for the $200,000 in work required on plaintiffs’ part of the roof, and the work could be completed in three to four weeks,” the Geracis assert, adding that if it doesn't want to use its reserves, it should assess the condo owners for the cost since its an emergency situation.
On top of claiming the association’s proposal is more expensive than necessary, the Geracis says it “is ugly" as it calls for exposed I-beams they contend will directly affect their private deck and devalue their property.
And based on their complaint, the Geracis know what they are talking about. They say they "have years of construction experience," have completed more than $10 million in construction over the past two decades on their own behalf and “own or lease over 35 properties.”
“Plaintiffs cannot put their unit on the market and sell it until the parapet wall and anchor point issue is solved, and they have a $250,000 roof deck project in pieces, and about $45,000 in materials and plants on the roof already that have been deteriorating for a year,” the complaint states.
Despite several requests for the wall to be fixed, something the Geracis say is the association's responsibility since the wall and roof are common elements of the building, the complaint alleges the association has refused to do so and has failed to act on its own engineering report.
The couple further accuses the association's board of managers of being "openly hostile to" them and using "association funds to hire lawyers to threaten [them] and justify the incompetence and intentional malfeasance of the board."
Not only do the Geracis claim the board has no intention of fixing the wall, but they contend the members lack the experience and ability needed to manage and control such a construction project.
In their recently-filed complaint, the Geracis ask the court to order the association to fix the wall and let them continue their repairs, as well as an award of attorney's fees and costs. In the alternative, the couple asked the court to appoint a receiver to do the work.
“A receiver appointed by the court could easily and quickly, within several weeks, engage plaintiffs’ contractor, and complete the work, and the court could order the association to pay for it, and this would avoid years of damages and litigation," the couple suggests.
Records show this is not the first time the Geracis and their condo have met in court.
Although the details and outcomes were not immediately known today, it appears the board in 2002 filed a complaint against the couple and Holly Geraci earlier this year brought a premises liability complaint against the association.
Chicago attorney Jefferey O. Katz of The Pattterson Law Firm is representing the couple. The suit also lists Geraci and Jonathan Parker, both of Geraci Law Firm.