New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Maxwell-Kates: Documents


So you have a shareholder who wants to renovate her apartment. And why not? After all, it is a good way to improve the value of her home. However, you are asking for possible problems if there are not regulations in place to govern the process. An apartment renovation can affect not only the individual apartment but also the quality of life of neighbors, as well as the structure of the building.


Boards, shareholders, and unit-owners must know the renovation rules before the process begins. The management company should supply information governing the planned work, including the alteration agreement, which lays out the specific rules. These rules guide the entire process, from alterations that are prohibited to ones requiring a review by the corporation/condominium association’s licensed architect/engineer. Some renovation proposals may be considered cosmetic and do not require the same degree of scrutiny. The agreement will also include permitted work hours, required protection for common areas, as well as the time permitted to complete the renovation. It is important that shareholders or unit-owners are allowed to improve their homes, but it is also important to have the rules in place to protect the building and also the rights of neighbors. Remember that while construction work is under way, any noise is likely to disturb neighbors.

Recently in one of the buildings we manage, a request was received from a shareholder with plans to enclose her balcony. The rules of these enclosures from the Department of Buildings (DOB) have changed over time, complicating the process. The enclosure of a balcony requires close scrutiny from the building’s architect/engineer with careful consideration of floor area ratio allowances, as well as DOB requirements for ventilation, lighting, and habitability.Management acts as a liaison between the shareholder/unit-owner planning the work and the architect/engineer reviewing the plans, while also keeping the board informed. It is important for the board to be involved in the process, particularly if a precedent-setting scope of work is being contemplated. The review and approval process does take time – typically weeks – and management has the task of communicating with an anxious shareholder/unit-owner while ensuring the building is protected.

Once the plans are approved, management needs to make certain all particulars are observed. Insurance certificates must be received, and they must conform to the building guidelines. Applicable building renovation fees should be collected. The board should take steps to ensure that the approved plans are being followed. The board should be aware of the work start and completion dates. Many alteration agreements specify the number of work days permitted to complete a renovation. This rule is effective only if management monitors the completion date.

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