New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine December 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Repair Responsibility

The LaGumina Law Firm
John J. LaGumina, Partner

 

A cooperative client had an issue regarding radiator leaks. Under the proprietary lease, the cooperative was responsible for maintaining and repairing all pipes and other utility conduits located inside the walls. Additionally, I noted that most cooperatives also take responsibility for the repair or replacement of any radiators located inside apartments since they are usually considered to be standard building equipment. Accordingly, I advised the cooperative that it would have the responsibility to maintain and repair the radiator. However, I pointed out that this responsibility does not automatically make the cooperative responsible for paying for repairs to apartment interiors and furnishings that may be damaged by a leaky radiator valve. Instead, the cooperative has a duty to promptly repair a radiator when a problem is brought to its attention. If the cooperative fulfills this obligation and makes the prompt repair, its remaining responsibilities are governed by the casualty loss provisions in the proprietary lease. These provisions state that when there is damage due to an unforeseeable casualty, the cooperative is responsible for making repairs to any damaged walls, floors, and ceilings but not to any damaged furniture, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, decorations, or personal property located in an apartment. In practice this usually means that the cooperative only needs to restore the sheetrock and perhaps add a coat of primer. It does not have to pay for any wall coverings or decorations. The affected shareholder would need to look to his or her own contents insurance for any damaged furniture, fixtures, furnishings, equipment, decorations, and personal property.

Legal Lesson

The board members learned that they are not guarantors against leaks and that their governing documents need to be examined before making decisions on leak repairs. Fortunately for this cooperative, the board raised the right questions before incurring the expenditures.

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