I recently represented a purchaser of a high-end prewar co-op apartment who intended to perform substantial alterations, especially to the kitchen and bathrooms. The co-op’s alteration agreement was 25 pages long with 27 additional pages of exhibits, prepared by an experienced co-op counsel over the years. Unfortunately, it had several clauses in different parts of the agreement that were not necessarily consistent and did not address the vagaries of who was living underneath the apartment being renovated or the way the building was originally constructed.
As work proceeded, numerous complaints were received from the owner of the apartment below the one being renovated. He claimed that he was being disturbed by “noisy work” being performed prior to 9 A.M. and after 3 P.M., as prohibited under the alteration agreement. The constant complaint of noisy work became a bone of contention, especially since the occupant of the apartment below worked at home and was a former officer and director of the co-op.
Because of the way the building was originally built, there also were pipes and supporting beams below the bathroom floors that the co-op said had to be replaced as part of any bathroom alteration. This, too, created an issue concerning how to address the noise being generated from this work. An additional factor that was not considered was how to address the extra time required on work that effectively was structural or replacement work. The co-op put a six-month time limit during which all work had to be performed.
Individuals purchasing apartments who intend to do major renovations must be aware of the co-op corporation, the work being performed, and the potential complaints from other unit-owners, especially those who work from home.
The owner of an apartment should communicate not only with the board but also the adjacent unit-owners to make sure that there are no unforeseen issues that would either affect when work can be performed or what issues might arise during the course of the renovation. In this case, since the alteration agreement did not spell out what was considered “noisy work,” it became apparent that operating power equipment or even vacuuming bare floors could be considered noisy work.