The Meter is Running
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Does your board know how to get a slow alteration back on schedule?
AUTHORDale J. Degenshein, Special Counsel, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan
PAGE #p. 51
When shareholders allow alterations to run on and on and on, it’s the board’s responsibility to get everyone back on track.
The board should make sure it has a current alteration agreement in place and should retain an attorney and architect so that current trends and issues are addressed. In addition, each agreement should be geared for the particularities of a building, whether pre-war or new construction. When an alteration goes off-track, and it appears it will take far longe than originally contemplated, the board should have the ability to require that the renovating owner comply with project schedules and completion dates for each portion of the work.
If building staff and outside professionals (architects, for example) conclude that schedules are not being met and will not be met, it is important to be in touch with the owner. The owner should be required to provide a “recovery schedule” that gets him back on track. Boards should also understand why the owner fell behind in the first place and make sure it’s not because his contractor has improperly staffed the project. Boards always have the obligation of weighing and balancing the rights of the person making the alterations with the rights of his neighbors who are living with noise, dust, elevator interruptions, and other disruptions.
While it is often a last resort, sometimes boards have to suspend a job for a period of time if it is clear that the apartment owner can’t, or won’t, get back on track. Do this carefully – if a contractor is stopped from working for a period of time, he may take another job, further delaying this one.
Alteration agreements are important because they allow the board to oversee renovations and make sure that all apartment owners are protected, particularly when an owner is doing a large renovation. It is important for a board to make sure that its agents, including its architect, are on top of the work and that boards know their rights under the document. The board should insist that its professionals – such as the architect or engineer who’s overseeing the project – visit the project on a regular basis. The payment for the board’s review, including periodic inspections, should come from the person who’s making the alterations, who should be required to post a deposit to make sure the professionals’ fees are paid. The board should also maintain communication with the neighboring apartments. They are the most affected and can tell you, first-hand, how the alteration is affecting them.