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Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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A Conversation About Roommates

A Conversation About Roommates

Privacy Please Can anyone offer insight, please? We have two board members who adamantly insist that we impose a surcharge on shareholders with a roommate. This, after subjecting a prospective roommate to an interview process by the board.

It is my understanding that the New York roommate law applies to co-ops as well. I am also concerned about liability issues with privacy as a result.

Also, the shareholder body currently subsidizes the additional costs when new children are born into the building. Why can’t a single person have another [person] living with them?

 

Anonymous: [The] New York roommate law [says] you can’t charge them. Don’t you have a management company and don’t you ask them their thoughts? You are paying them, ask them! If not them, ask your lawyer!

 

Board Prez: Listen to Anonymous – he is correct and your two board members are inviting legal action. The roommate law, as well as ALL housing laws applies to co-ops. If those two board members will not listen to you, your manager, or your attorneys, I hope you have an election coming soon.

 

Sally: No fee [is] allowed by law. They cannot do that. Period. It is illegal. The roommate law allows you one person – in fact you can also have a domestic servant there, so that makes two people. Tell them in writing not to bother you or you will consider it harassment.

 

RLM: I agree completely with all the negative responses. The roommate law holds precedence over your board’s desire for dollars. Your board members have not done their due diligence – shame on them! They need to familiarize themselves with New York City laws on habitation so this kind of time-wasting and mean-spirited nonsense never even comes up.

People who serve on the board need to understand what fiduciary responsibility is right off the bat - no agendas, no personal biases, no special favors, no vendettas.

If you have a managing agent, make sure they get asked for advice, and make sure they’re not just pacifying the loudest members of the board to keep the business. If needed, consult the board attorney, who’ll put a stop to this kind of action once and for all.

 

CDT: Lots of good answers here, and I agree with all of them. Just two additional points:

(1) Your two board members may claim that the proprietary lease says they have the right to interview roommates or impose surcharges, and they may even be correct. But this doesn’t matter: the roommate law trumps the lease. The board has no right to screen roommates or to impose any charges for roommates, and they are inviting serious legal consequences by trying to do so.

(2) The roommate law does not cover the case where the shareholder moves out and lets one of his relatives or friends live in the apartment. That’s a sublet, and the board does indeed have control over that case.

 

RLM: CDT had good additions. I missed the first time that the board is interviewing and screening roommates – totally against the roommate law – and you’d better hope no one sues who wasn’t accepted. Hope you’ve shared these responses with your two board members who are badly mistaken.

 

RIVERDALE: This has been an interesting conversation, and we have a new spin on this. A shareholder in our co-op sublet his apartment to two people, who were board-approved and moved in. Now one of them has moved out. This is a situation for the shareholder whose apartment it is (will the remaining person be able to pay?), but can the remaining sublessee bring in anyone as a roommate without that person being interviewed? What’s the proper procedure?

 

CDT: Interesting question about replacing a roommate under a sublease! My guess: if at least one person whose name appears on the sublease remains in the apartment, then the roommate law would apply and the replacement roommate would not need board approval. Think of the base case where there is originally no roommate at all: one would expect the roommate law to allow the addition of a roommate without approval. However, this could be completely wrong. With the shareholder out of the apartment, the board has much more control. Ask a lawyer and let us all know the answer...

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