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Quality of Life Issues: A Balancing Act - Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman

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Aaron Shmulewitz, Partner, Belkin Burden Wenig & Goldman. How can a board best tackle a quality-of-life issue that pits shareholders against one another?

BACKSTORY I represented a Manhattan co-op in connection with a series of incidents involving a shareholder’s dog that had bitten a resident in an elevator, after prior incidents in which the dog had tried to attack other dogs in the building. The board wanted to bar the dog from riding in the elevator when other residents or dogs were present in it. Exacerbating the situation was that a modernization of the passenger elevator forced all residents, and dogs, to take the building’s service elevator. Thus, the board’s initial intent – to bar the dog owner from using the service elevator when others were in it – would have forced the dog owner to take the canine up and down multiple flights of stairs at least twice a day.

A workable solution was ultimately negotiated in which written notice of the incidents was given to all shareholders, the dog was to be muzzled in all common areas of the building at all times, and a protocol for use of the service elevator was adopted whereby the dog and its owner could not enter the elevator if others were already present, unless approved by the riders. If the dog and its owner were already the sole occupants, subsequent potential riders could decide whether or not to get on.

COMMENT A board’s toughest job is to try to balance the interests, needs, and rights of competing sets of residents, within the bounds of the law, common sense, and practicality. Sometimes a board’s best course of action is to not exercise available rights as fully as it legally can.

From the Desk of AS:

One of the best board traits is having no ego.


favorite lawyer flick

The Verdict

Longest dispute:

13 years for hoarding

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