HABITAT

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Vent shaft - MG Dec 12, 2018

I own a co-op unit in a 1960s building. During a recent renovation my neighbor upstairs removed the kitchen in his unit which is above me ( he combined two apartments) and now my kitchen vent duct opens directly into his living room. After the renovation, I now hear everything he says as clearly as if he was standing in my apartment. The super has looked at the vent shaft with a flashlight, and says the vent shaft is "completely open" and straight." There are no turns to in it. He says there's a turn in the kitchen shaft of his own unit in the building. So it appears that my unit is directly linked to the above unit via the shaft.

Is this legal? Is this a code violation in New York City?

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I don't know about the legality of it, but the first thing I would do is find out if he can he hear every word that YOU say while he's in his apartment.

If he can, then I think a good argument can be made that your right to privacy is being violated solely by actions that your neighbor took - not you.

If he doesn't care that you hear everything he says, then that's fine. But, if he can hear everything you say and you don't want that, then he caused the problem and must fix it.

I would notify the Board if you have not already done so. The co-op's attorney may need to be consulted about this matter, too.

Good luck.

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Agree with Marty. The situation you are describing, having raw cooking fumes venting into a habitable space, is an unsafe condition and almost assuredly a violation of Dept of Building regulations and code. You don't have liability in this situation, but your board needs to get involved. They need to review the alteration agreement to see if this venting was called out in the plans and part of the alteration approval. If it was, it does not absolve your upstairs neighbor from responsibility for complying with code, but it will probably cause your board to be more involved in this issue.

It it wasn't part of the plan, and the contractor just built it this way because it was convenient, then your neighbor and his contractor have a big additional renovation ahead. The configuration you described cannot remain because of the health and safety issues. Fumes from a kitchen can contain Carbon Monoxide, which is deadly.

Bottom line, IMHO, is that you are ok (just don't agree to anything, like "are you ok with the configuration?"), and your upstairs neighbor and their contractor are in deep dodo.

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Leaking from Neighbor Above - marym Dec 07, 2018

We are a small co-op and I am the President of the Board. Two years ago a shareholder ("Richard") moved in and since then he has let his water overflow eight times into the apartment below him (owned by "Tom"). Each time the water cascades down the walls of Tom's apartment and at times enters the light fixtures. Tom was very patient particularly because he liked Richard and they became friends. After about the 5th flooding, Tom asked that the matter be brought up at a Board meeting. He specifically said he didn't want anything done but wanted it on the record, which is what happened. Now Tom is furious after this latest episode and has asked the Board to advise him on what steps he needs to take to get his apartment tested for mold. What is the Board's responsibility here? Do we leave it for them to work out?

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Has your managing agent and super inspected to make sure his over flow is open for water to drain out?If not he needs one. I would contact my insurance company and explain the problem they will bill the upstairs neighbors insurance company for all work that is needed. Example mold removal, plastering and painting. In the mean time the neighbor above needs to be aware of this problem and also have him contact his insurance company. You as a board member and president you need a managing agent (a good one) who can advise you on problems that is going on in your co-op. Let us know the results. Best of Luck and Happy Holidays.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

I had a water leak from my upstairs neighbor, who left his toilet overflowing due to dementia related problems. I contacted my insurance company who brought in equipment to dry out the
apartment, remove damaged wallpaper from bathroom, and replaster and paint,
. The insurance company paid for our hotel while the work was done, and the cost of damaged items and restaurant meals. Of course, we notified the Management company. They sent a building insurance agent to inspect.
The upstairs neighbor was a renter, unlike us. I don’t know what his liability was. He soon afterwards moved to a nursing home.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Thank you peoples choice #1 and H for your responses. We are a self-managed building. The Board had a meeting with the upstairs neighbor last night who is very contrite and accepts responsibility for any costs incurred by the downstairs neighbor. Both have insurance. The upstairs neighbor agreed to buy Flood Water and Overflow Alarms (and did so immediately after the meeting). We also encouraged him to turn his phone off before turning on any water, which he agreed to do. This we believe is a distraction. He is on medication and that may be affecting his behavior. We told the downstairs neighbor that we will be having a mold inspection of the entire building early in 2019. It's necessary because of this flooding and it is also now required by the City.

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Cell Tower Leasing - GS Nov 22, 2018

Hi,
I'm a board member in Brooklyn NY. We are a six story building. We are trying to increase our revenue stream. Some ideas are renting more storage units and cell tower leasing. I'm wondering about the current state of cell tower leasing given the changing technology. Any input on the upside/downside of this, numbers for potential income, as well as whether it's best to deal with phone companies directly or go through a third party would be greatly appreciated.
Happy Thanksgiving to all :)

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Domestic Partnership and HDFC Income Restrictions - AMS Nov 16, 2018

I live in an HDFC coop in NYC. A few years after purchasing my boyfriend moved in. He is also interested in purchasing his own apartment in the building in a few years. We both separately meet the income requirements for HDFCs, however if we were to apply jointly we would not. If we enter into a domestic partnership before he applies to purchase an apartment would he have to list both of our incomes?

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The answer is yes.

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Hi Mary M - I'm not a lawyer, which is why I'm asking this question. It's been my understanding that a "Domestic Partnership" was a relationship device used by states that wanted to circumvent the federal ban on same-sex marriage. In these states, a Domestic Partnership granted all rights and privileges married individuals enjoyed to individuals in a same-sex relationship. I believe it required the filing of a formal declaration and/or document with the state courts.

Now that marriage is a right enjoyed by *all* couples, does a "Domestic Partnership" still have any legal or regulatory standing. Hasn't it been superseded by the right to marry?

I'm asking in the spirit of wondering if the HDFC can today look at a Domestic Partnership and decide that it has the same force and effect of a formal marriage in terms of combining the incomes of two individuals who are *not* legally married.

Thanks!
--- Steve

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This is a potential abuse of HDFCs. We would never consider allowing a partner (whether legal or otherwise) to purchase a separate apartment. Many times people try to buy an apartment in our building and only put down the name of one applicant so they can qualify income-wise, but it's easy to find out that this is bogus. HDFCs have strict income guidelines and they should be adhered to.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Hi MaryM - Thanks for your thoughts on what is included as "income" for the purpose of HDFC residency. I did a little research, and found an official NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development booklet from April, 2018, that provids a definition of "family" when calculating income limits.

On page 5-1, the definition of a family is, "A husband, wife, son, daughter, unborn child (pregnancy must be documented), stepson, stepdaughter, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, brother, sister, nephew, niece, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or any other family member or person for whom the head of household can prove legal guardianship or a relationship based on dependency, blood, marriage or domestic partnership."

So the answer to the OP's original question is as MaryM stated. The OP might want to download the booklet because it contains a lot of information about HDFC rules and regulations.

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Is It Legal for Managing Agent to Sit on the Board - Jen Nov 15, 2018

Our Board has picked one of its own members to be the Management company of our Co-Op. is that legal? Also the Management Company chooses the Independent Auditor. That can’t be ok

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It sounds like you have the the potential for a conflict of interest, but the transparency you described probably minimizes legal problems with the setup. A way of getting around the auditor issue is to have the board member/MA *propose* the auditor, and then the rest of the board reviews and votes to approve or reject. That way the auditor selection is owned by the entire board and not a single board member.

I am not a lawyer.

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Emotional support dog - emkharts Nov 15, 2018

I live in a coop with a cats only house rule. I have 2 cats as allowed by the rules but have become very depressed due to many factors, most of which stem from my unhappiness with living in this coop. I can't move for the foreseeable next year due to financial reasons. I have spoken to a therapist and received a letter stating need to get a dog and I'm sending it to the board via management company before heading to shelter to adopt dog. Is there ANY reason board can try to use to deny my right to a dog? Can they make excuses about noise, etc to try and make me get rid of dog? The management company of my coop is extremely uncooperative and I know they will try any excuse to deny me so I'm just trying to head off any problems. I have addressed a letter to board with a copy of letter from therapist stating my need prior to adopting. Any thoughts appreciated.

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investing reserve funds in Treasury bills - evs Nov 14, 2018

hi all,
new board member here.
our board is exploring options as far as investing our building's reserve fund (currently sitting around earning 0.1%), and one option discussed where short term (4 week or 13 week) Treasury bills

while individuals can easy create an account on the TreasuryDirect.gov website, I wonder if anyone has created an account in their coop's name, and how to go about it?

thanks

> Join the conversation Comments (3)

I live in a coop with a cats only house rule. I have 2 cats as allowed by the rules but have become very depressed due to many factors, most of which stem from my unhappiness with living in this coop. I can't move for the foreseeable next year due to financial reasons. I have spoken to a therapist and received a letter stating need to get a dog and I'm sending it to the board via management company before heading to shelter to adopt dog. Is there ANY reason board can try to use to deny my right to a dog? Can they make excuses about noise, etc to try and make me get rid of dog? The management company of my coop is extremely uncooperative and I know they will try any excuse to deny me so I'm just trying to head off any problems. I have addressed a letter to board with a copy of letter from therapist stating my need prior to adopting. Any thoughts appreciated.

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Sorry about my dog post. I meant to create new conversation.

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Because of recent abuses of "support" animal rules, the government is trying to come up with a set of standard guidelines to differentiate between "service" and "support" animals, and how each integrates into the Americans with Disabilities Act. Assuming that the your situation meets whatever regulations are in place, I don't think the co-op/MA can deny you the support dog. What the might try to do is demand you get rid of one or both of your cats because the dog will be a replacement.

It sounds like having the support dog is very important to you and I understand your apprehensions. Because of the ambiguities surrounding support animals, I suggest you contact an attorney who specializes in ADA law to find out exactly what you are allowed and what the co-op/MA is permitted to do. If nothing else, knowing definitely what is and is not permitted will lessen your level of anxiety and apprehension.

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You might want to explore putting your reserve funds into Money Market (MM) or Certificate of Deposits (CD) before getting involved in the complexities of Treasury bonds. MMs and CDs are each insured up to $250k so there no loss of principle. Depending on how frequently you estimate you will need to draw on the funds, you can look at on-line "internet" banks or local brick and mortar banks.

If you're in NYC, I can make a recommendation. Bethpage Federal Credit Union. They were originally Long Island only, but have a full service branch in Chelsea on 26th St. I used them for personal banking long before becoming my Co-op's treasurer, and opened a business account with them for our reserve funds. Here's the link to their business banking department: https://www.bethpagefcu.com/business.aspx and the link to their business account rates https://www.bethpagefcu.com/rates-calculators.aspx . BFCU Money market is paying 1.75% and you have immediate access to your funds. CD's are tiered based on length of time. They were a little slow raising their interest rates compared to other banks, but in the past year the latency has decreased.

I've been with the BFCU (personally) since 1974 (I'm an oldie but goodie) and never had any problems or fund security concerns. They're one of the largest credit unions in the country.




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I would invest in Ally Bank, CD's are going for over 2.% and the Feds will be raising interest rates again. Your board can also get a Ally Bank Savings Plan this will be going from 1.90% to over 2% and the board can withdraw the money right away without penalty. Also you can consult your account who can advise you the best for your board. Best of Luck

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

PC #1 - That's why I recommended Money Market over CD in today's environment. All indications are that interest rates will be going up in December and 2-3 more times in 2019. If you invest in a 12 month CD, it won't benefit from any of these rate hikes. MMs, on the other hand, are more liquid, and banks will increase interest rates to stay competitive during the 12 month cycle.

Of course, how important all this is depends on how much is being put into the MM or CD. If the principle is in the $25k to $75k range, an increase of 50 basis points (0.50%) to 75 basis points (0.75%) over 12 months won't make much difference. But if the MM/CD is maxed to the FDIC limit ($250k) or more, even small interest rate increments have a noticeable effect.

Does Ally offer business accounts? When investing co-op funds, they really can't go into a personal retail account. Chances are no one will find out, but at the very least the individual who owns the account will be taxed on the interest income, and they will be legally liable for any unauthorized withdrawals or other questionable activity. Board members are fiduciaries, and it's not a good idea for fiduciaries to have personal ownership of corporation funds.

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> Join the conversation Comments (2)

Yes to your question Ally offers business accounts, also you can spread your money around to money market companies. Like Charles S. if you have more then $250,000. Steven board members don't have access to these accounts only the board treasure /managing agent who approves bills/pays them. Board of directors safe guard these accounts with 2 signatures if needed. These monies will be safe after the board Treasure shows the monthly expedisures at monthly board meeting and explains/shows what was spent or earned that month. Have a great Thanksgiving

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Thanks PC#1. The very same to you, and to the rest of the participants in these forums.

I agree with severely limiting signatory privileges on all reserve accounts. In our board only the president and treasurer can sign for withdrawals or transfers. We don't give withdrawal privileges to anyone who is not a board officer, including the MA. The number of withdrawals from a reserve fund should be minimal, in most cases one or less per month.

IMHO, the reserve accounts should only be used to increase the balance of the operating account if a large expense is anticipated or due. There shouldn't be any direct disbursements to any vendors or suppliers or taxing authority, etc. If direct payments are made from the reserve accounts, bookkeeping and auditing become much more complex. It also becomes more difficult to trace fraud or embezzlement. At least, that's the process we use with our reserve fund.

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Who is Entitled to be on the Board of Directors? - marym Nov 07, 2018

We have a shareholder who bought an apartment almost 3 months ago. He hasn't moved in yet because he is doing some renovations. We have a requirement that the apartment must be his primary residence, which it isn't yet. We have an upcoming Annual Meeting at which he may want to join the Board for next year. Technically, he is a shareholder in good standing in that he is up to date on his maintenance but does the fact that this is not yet his primary residence prevent him from being on the Board? Thank you.

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This is kind of a squishy questions, but from the way you describe it, I would say the new shareholder's apartment can be considered as his primary residence. I assume that the new shareholder closed on the apartment and is now the shareholder of record. Many new shareholders renovate before moving in. This doesn't preclude the apartment from being their primary residence and where they're living now is a temporary domicile.

If you have concerns, ask the new shareholder to provide the board with a notarized letter stating that the apartment is and will be his primary residence. If he turns around and sublets it or uses it as a pied-a-tier, you can always vote him off the board.

If you have serious concerns, ask the board's attorney if the new shareholder qualifies for board membership, or what he would need to do to qualify.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

I agree with Steven that the buyer owns the apartment since he closed. However, that doesn't necessarily prove that it's the primary residence. It just means that he bought the apartment.

As Steven suggested, you can ask for a notarized letter. My preferred method of showing primary residence is a driver's license that has your co-op's address on it.

I would ask the buyer to show both the notarized letter and the driver's license. If the buyer presents both items to the Board, then that would satisfy my primary residency criteria.

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With all due respect to the gentleman that suggested he would accept a driver's license reflecting the building's address to evidence a "primary residence;" one can visit most any local NYS DMV office--advise them of a change of address--and easily obtain a second driver's license. If one wanted to be exceptionally clever, one could claim that he/she physically lost their driver's license through misplacement--inform them of a different address--and obtain a new driver's license reflecting the building's address. Thus a driver's license with the building address is not exactly the best means in which to accept proof of a primary residence. If the Board can obtain information from a mortgagee (bank lending $ for the loan) that will support whether it is a primary residence of 'second' home (or investment.) But, leaving it to a clever shareholder is ludicrous; no disrespect intended.

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> Join the conversation Comments (2)

No offense taken Throck. You make valid points.

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Just some random thoughts
They closed 3 months ago and haven't moved in yet? Are the renovating so they can move in? What were their projected intentions when they purchased and interviewed?
Why is this important if they are intending to be full time residents and just have not moved their bags in yet? It sounds more like you (or someone) wishes to deter him and using this an cause.
If this is true, and in my opinion justifiable since someone should be a resident long enough to understand and know the buildings climate, challenges and characteristics enough to be able to contribute to it, they should be informed directly of the concerns and encouraged to run next year when they are a bit more seasoned.
If the concern is truly that they may be an investor on the board, then possibly state that directly also.. I say all that because it is always best to be upfront with intent and reason as not to cause animosity and a foe down the line. ...

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Sharehodler Refinance Requirements - Muddled in Manhattan Nov 05, 2018

Hi All -
Our co-op would like to keep shareholders' costs low while protecting the co-op. Our management company is asking as much as $1150 from shareholders seeking to take out a Home Equity Line of Credit. A five-page application asks shareholders seeking a HELOC for two years of tax returns and all their personal financial information, as well as letters of reference. It's not at all clear what judgment the management company would make based on this information. Additionally, apart from asking shareholders to black out their social security numbers on the paperwork, the management company has no way of keeping this confidential information secure. Shareholders understandably feel their personal information is no one else's business.

The bank has approved the HELOC. The management company is required only to provide a copy of the co-op's current insurance certificate. The management company says it must "protect" the co-op. Shareholders agree the co-op must be protected but don't see what protection is being offered by submitting their personal information, nor do they see why the fee should be so high.

The "application" would make sense for a purchaser in the co-op, but otherwise seems little more than a way for the management company to generate a fee.

What does your board do for a HELOC application? What's the legal issue here?

Thanks - Muddled in Manhattan

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Never heard of this for a coop or condo unless you want to improve your home. Our coop has a 30 year mortgage which some was used to get new elevators and boiler the rest was used as a cushion. HELOC is not tax deductible and it does not cost you money to fill out an application. I world have a lot of concerns and questions about the dealings of your managing agent. Your board needs to seriously change agents he/she sounds shady. I'd also have your accountant double check your books this managing agent sound like he/she needs money. What is the name of you managing agent? So we can rule them out. Let us know what the end result is. Best of Luck

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

As a managing agent, I look at the whole picture and do require Shareholders to fill out a simplified financial statement form.
In most coops, I have moved the 80% LTV to 75% because of volatility and ensure this will be maintained if any LOC is maxed out.
We run credit, ask for current income verification and ensure stability.
We charge $50 for the credit, and 250 for the app, which is more industry standard and includes any bank questionnaires, etc that need to be filled out and submitted.
As opposed to purchasing, other questions such as "why?" come into play because it would concern me if they were financing their lifestyle that may be in a deficit..
But at the end of the day, if there's tons of equity and you maintain leverage, you can afford some leniency if needed.
In essence, you do need the whole picture.
~AR

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PC#1, I think Muddled was asking about HELOCs for individual shareholders and not for the co-op corporation. That's the impression I had from reading the first part of your reply. I apologize if I read it incorrectly.

That being said, I agree that $1,150 is a very excessive fee to charge an existing shareholder for a HELOC review. I could see charging maybe half that amount for a new purchaser review because such reviews require a detailed analysis of the purchaser's assets and liabilities. But a HELOC? Very suspect.

Keep in mind that the shareholder already has a fiscal history with the co-op. Do they pay their monthly maintenance and any assessments on time? Have they ever asked for any special financial considerations? I'm assuming the shareholders haven't given the appearance of any financial distress, so the board knows they're reliable and good community members.

When we do a HELOC review, it's usually the treasurer who does it and not the MA. When I did the reviews, all I really needed was enough financial information to verify that the shareholder's mortgage+maintenance+HELOC monthly payments did not exceed around 35% of their annual pre-tax income. I may ask for a few documents like paystubs to verify income and employment, disclosure of any new, non-discretionary debts (large loans, divorce maintenance and child support, things like that) but not nearly the level of financial information the MA is requiring.

To me, the giveaway that the MA is price-gouging is the request for references. WTF? This is someone who's lived in the building, and the quality of their character should already be known to the board. You might ask the MA why they are requesting references and what their purpose is.

Two additional points. It's a pretty well-known tactic of some MA's to lowball their monthly fees with the expectation that they'll make some of it up in nuisance fees like excessive shareholder chargebacks. Before doing or saying anything, check your contract with the MA to make sure the fee wasn't specified in a rider to the contract.

Do not accept a bank's approval of a mortgage or HELOC as verification of the applicant's financial soundness. Remember what happened in 2008-2009 with no-verification and liar loans. There's been talk that this behavior is starting to appear with certain institutions. Due Your Diligence.

Good luck!

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Thank you Steven424 for clarifying this for me.

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Thank you Steven424 and People's Choice #1. Yes it's a personal HELOC, not a HELOC for the co-op. I'm not sure the managing agent is being dishonest. I think they are trying to get a fee for an unnecessary service, and have gone overboard in requesting documentation. That said, since a HELOC is a line of credit, not a loan, Steven424, there's no way to complete your calculation. And even so, why would a Board want to deny a HELOC to, say, an aging shareholder who's got millions of dollars in equity but only social security to pay his bills? Unlocking that credit avoids an apartment falling into arrears and avoids a premature sale of a property, both of which could lower values of other apartments. The 2008 crisis had nothing to do with this. That was about single-family homeowners who took cashout refis, or who bought using exploding ARMs and thought they could flip before the market crashed.

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Disclosing Resident Names and Apartment Status - H. Oct 28, 2018

Are shareholders entitled to know the names of other shareholders, which apartments they live in, as well as which apartments are sublets and the sublessees’ names?

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In my building we do not give out residents personal info. Unless the resident says it's okay. I instruct my staff if a resident requests another resident's info, the resident requesting should leave a telephone number or email address and my staff will give to the resident to contact them if they wish too.

Mike MacGowan, RAM, NYARM

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This article appears to be on-point for your question:

https://cooperator.com/article/a-board-beholden/full

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