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Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

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A Conversation About Share Inheritance

A Conversation About Share Inheritance (Complicated by a Dog Fight)

Joe Quinn My wife’s father is a shareholder in a Manhattan co-op. He is 82. He intends for my wife to inherit the shares, and she has lived there with him for 10 years. She has been trying to get the management to enter her name on the lease for almost two years. Instead they keep asking her for more paperwork. She has submitted stacks of things they’ve requested, only to be asked for more.

I moved in with my wife and father-in-law almost three months ago, and brought my dog, which is allowed under the co-op’s pet policy. One night, my dog got in a fight with another dog and mildly injured it. I volunteered to pay for the vet bill, but the other party preferred to let the co-op deal with me and remain anonymous. Now the co-op is telling me I owe more than $900 to cover the other dog’s vet bill. They also insist I get rid of my dog, but again, nothing in writing. They periodically send scary-looking security officers to the door.

It’s clear to me they are trying to intimidate us. What’s worse is that it seems to be working on my father-in-law and wife: they think they’ll get evicted if they rock the boat.

peoples choice Joe, you have two problems. First, look at your bylaws to see if they state anything about getting your names on the stock certificate or anything about what happens when the shareholder dies. It will state if you will need to pay a transfer tax or a fee. It took some time to get my wife on my stock certificate, but I did after a year. Did you write to the board? If you need help, go to your dad’s lawyer. Your wife is a caregiver; we have a law to protect us in cases like this.

The dog is another story. Ask to see the vet bills before you hand over any money. You need a name for signing the check to the dog’s owner. That’s when you’ll see who it’s coming from.

Steve-Inwood To be frank, I am not sure you and your wife are ready for co-op ownership yet, in that you are still thinking like renters and not owners.

First, it is rare for anyone to simply be “added to the lease” without a corresponding real estate transaction (i.e., a closing). You need a lawyer to take you through the options.

The dog issue is a big one. My advice to you is that if you really want to show the board and management that you are ownership material, give the dog away (hint: at least on a temporary basis).

Joe Quinn Steve, you are right that we do not understand co-op politics. I have never owned property in my life; I’ve always rented apartments. My wife has been counting on inheriting this for a long time, but she shies away from opaque legal jargon and bureaucratic paperwork.

I will certainly investigate the proprietary lease. However, we were under the impression that my wife has a right to succession. I would think one’s succession rights would be even stronger in the case where the prior tenant owns part of the place.

We considered temporarily relocating the dog to appease the management. Unfortunately, we have nowhere to send him.

I did ask for a copy of the vet bill, and they delivered it. The other party’s name was blacked out.

A cooperator Owning a co-op is not owning real estate. Actually, it is owning shares in a corporation, i.e., the cooperative. I think you should get a copy of the proprietary lease, house rules, etc., and, if you can locate a copy, The New York Co-op Bible. The latter is a great introduction to how co-ops and condos work, with particular attention to proprietary leases and such.

Your dog situation does complicate things. Even if the board is disposed to be sympathetic to your situation, which isn’t a given, the misbehaving dog of a potential new resident is a potential problem.

Joe Quinn Isn’t the board under any obligation to justify its approval of new residents? Otherwise, what’s to stop them from banning people based on, say, race or sexual orientation or the like?

About my dog, he really is very well behaved, much more so than other dogs in the building. What happened was an isolated incident. But what I’m discovering (I think) is that rumors matter much more than facts in a co-op. In fact, security at one point thought I had two dogs, because the dog that people were seeing so poorly matched the description of the problematic dog they had heard rumors about.

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