New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Insider Guide



Access Isn’t Free

Lack of leverage. Section 881 of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law allows owners doing mandatory work on their building’s exterior to gain access to neighboring properties in order to erect scaffolding or other protections. You enter into what’s called a licensing or access agreement and pay a fee to your neighbor. The average is somewhere between $2,500 and $5,500 per month, depending on the impact to the neighboring building. But there’s no standardization in the law for how to calculate these fees. So if your neighbor wants to charge you an exorbitant fee, you have three options: pay it, try to negotiate better terms, or sue them. 


Cost analysis. Going to court is expensive, and it can take years to get a resolution. So boards need to ask themselves: “What are the legal fees involved? How much are we paying for the bridging and scaffolding we’ve already put up?” You also have to consider the fines you have to pay if you don’t get mandated repairs done in time. Often, it makes sense just to pay up.


Two-way street. Owners being asked to grant access should be reasonable because someday you’re most likely going to need access to your neighbor’s property and you don’t want a contentious relationship to grow over time. Whenever we negotiate an access agreement we try to put in a reciprocal provision, which says that when the roles are reversed, the party now seeking access can perform the work on similar terms.

Don’t delay. As soon as you know that mandated repair work is coming up and begin looking for contractors, inform your attorney, who can start negotiating a licensing agreement with the neighbors. You want it already signed so that when you’re ready to begin repairs, you’ll be good to go.

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