The Meter is Running
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Not notifying the board about bed bugs can only cause an infestation of other units.
AUTHORRichard Klein, Law Offices of Richard Klein
Enforcing house rules will encourage shareholders to come forward with issues such as bed bugs, which will curtail worsening problems.
Law Offices of Richard Klein
Richard Klein, Partner
A board I represent was confronted with the problem of bed bug infestation in several units in the building. The fact pattern was simply that a few individual apartments had become infested with bed bugs, but never notified the board, the managing agent, or their neighbors. Because these unit-owners did not properly remedy the bed bug situation, it spread to other apartments. Once the board and managing agent became aware of the problem, they made sure to take the proper steps to stop the spread of the bed bugs and eradicate them from the subject apartments.
However, by the time the board knew about the bed bug problem, the bugs had spread to several more units, and so the problem became more costly and more widespread.
The problem might have been averted if the board had updated both its proprietary lease and its house rules to cover many of the issues that have arisen since these documents were originally drafted. Other board directors should learn from this experience that they should be sitting down with their legal counsel to review all of the corporation’s operative documents and determine which areas need to be updated.
A good set of house rules will address many quality-of-life issues, such as noise issues, odors, cigarette smoke, maintaining insurance, and the issue of bed bugs.
Equally important is to make sure that the cooperative’s proprietary lease gives the board the ability to enforce the house rules and penalize those shareholders who violate them. If this co-op’s house rules had dealt with bed bugs, the original shareholders who were affected would have hopefully come forward much earlier and the problem would have been contained.