In 2008, hoping to reassure potential condo buyers that any further slide in the market wouldn’t hurt them, the Kopley Group development company offered a full-price buy-back guarantee on two of its North Side developments. The company’s chief, Nick Kopley, told me then that this was an “absolute, no questions asked” offer; the company made similar comments to the Chicago Tribune and Yo Chicago.
Now, the Kopley Group has been hit with a lawsuit from a condo owner who claims that the company has been stalling on honoring that buy-back provision since June 2010. Four other unit owners in the building—known as Renaissance Lofts and situated at the southeast corner of the intersection of Howard and Clark Streets—have applied for buy-backs. But the developer has completed only one of those deals (with a former resident whom I could not reach for this article). Nick Kopley and the company’s lawyers (at Skoubis and Mantas) have not responded to multiple requests for comment for this article.
“I looked at a number of properties, but the buy-back agreement is what gave me the confidence to buy here,” says David Derk, the condo owner whose lawyers filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court in January. In October 2009, Derk paid $160,000 for a one-bedroom condo on the sixth floor of the 37-unit Renaissance Lofts. Six months after moving in, Derk says, he was unhappy with the traffic noise from Clark Street and with the fumes from a neighboring restaurant’s exhaust. Both annoyances were in place before he bought and thus could have been detected, but Derk says that they did not seem problematic until after he moved in. He spent $3,660 to install better-insulated windows, he says, but he was still bothered.
Last April, Derk started looking into moving, and on June 2nd, he contacted the Kopley Group about exercising the buy-back provision. The buy-back contract, included as part of the sale contract that both parties signed at the closing, expressly says that the seller (a limited liability company organized by Kopley to convert the Renaissance Lofts building to condos) would repurchase the condo for the full $160,000, minus any cost to repair damage, within 90 days of Derk requesting it.
Three times over the next several months, Derk says, he and Kopley reached a buy-back agreement, but each time, he says, a Kopley representative cancelled. “We’re asking them to honor the contract,” he says. “It’s not a gentlemen’s agreement; it’s a contract.”
Each time a buy-back deal was nearing completion, Derk packed up his things, believing he was on his way out. Now he is living with small stacks of full boxes in his kitchen and living room. “I don’t want to unpack them all over again,” he says. “My life is on hold.”