Steven Sladkus, Partner, Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas
Get involved. Most of the co-op boards that I represent really try to work out the problem in an amicable way. If there are complaints being made by neighbors, the board has a fiduciary duty to all shareholders to make sure they can peaceably enjoy their apartments. So when a dog is barking and it’s bothering the use and occupancy of the apartments of the people next door, the board should get involved.
The first step. Take a conciliatory approach. Write a friendly letter saying, “The board has received complaints about your barking dog. Please do your best to keep your dog under control, and be aware of the problem.” A lot of times that works.
The second step. If complaints keep coming in from the neighbors, the board may decide to press further and say, “Look, we’re not going to go nuclear yet, but we want to see some proof that you’re doing something affirmatively.”
The nuclear threat. Nuclear is very subjective, but I think nuclear is sending somebody a notice to say that if the situation isn’t cured within 30 days — which is the typical timeframe for a nuisance under a proprietary lease — the board will seek to terminate the lease.
Take note. A notice of termination will get the shareholder’s attention, but you don’t actually have to follow through with it. A board has a very wide latitude to do what it wants to resolve the situation, but it also has the latitude to press things as hard as it deems necessary.