A man we'll call Chuck had been on the board of his small Manhattan co-op for about three years, and he had always been a robust defender of his rights – “protecting his investment,” as he put it. But when it came time to protect the rights of his neighbors – which is a chief duty of every board – he was nowhere to be found.
For instance, he wanted to have a dog, and although the proprietary lease forbade pets, he secretly brought a dog into his apartment, then persuaded his fellow board members to change the lease to allow dogs. In another instance, he was asked to remove his roof deck so the roof could be repaired. He hired a worker to do the job, but when the board asked to see the worker’s insurance, Chuck balked. “What do I need that for?” he asked. He ultimately did the job himself and left a disorderly pile of wood on the ground floor for the super to clean up.
Then there was the issue of leaks. Chuck had bought his apartment knowing there had been a series of leaks in it. Every six months or so, there would be a big storm, and invariably there would be a leak, which the super would immediately patch up. Eventually, Chuck pushed to have a new roof installed, arguing that the existing roof was more than 20 years old and had exceeded its useful life. The board agreed to replace it.
Before that could happen, however, Chuck decided to move to Boston. Not wanting to sell in a soft market, he found a young couple to sublet his apartment. The board met the couple and approved them, with one director mentioning the past leaks and the expected noise and disruption from the upcoming roof work. That was the first the couple had heard of either topic. Chuck also hadn’t told them – or the board, for that matter – about the mold in the apartment. It turns out, the super had found mold in the ceiling where the leak had been and also in a windowsill where Chuck had improperly installed an air-conditioner. Chuck and the super failed to notify the board about the mold.
On learning of the leak, Chuck’s would-be-subletters hired an inspector, who reported the presence of mold. This led the subletters to pull out and demand a return of their deposit. Chuck, in turn, contended that the board’s failure to fix the roof properly resulted in leaks that produced the mold. He claimed the apartment was uninhabitable and announced he was going to withhold his maintenance until the problem was addressed.
The board promptly spent more than $4,000 for mold remediation in Chuck’s apartment, plus new drywall and painting. “All of those costs will come out of the operating budget and not the reserve fund, since this was not a capital improvement,” the board treasurer reported. The operating budget suffered an unwelcome hit.
The board members were angry at Chuck for withholding his maintenance and became even angrier after the remediation was done and they received a letter from Chuck in which he claimed that the co-op owed him money: $8,735.68 for lost rental income, mold inspection costs, cleaning, advertising for new subletters, and payments to the super.
At last report, the board was consulting with its attorney. But it’s unlikely Chuck will be receiving a check for $8,735.68 any time soon.
The apartment sits vacant.