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Can homeowners register a new homeowners association? - Michael Jun 19, 2017

I'm a board president of small condo unit in Queens. We recently got rid of developer who was managing building for last 4 years and pocketing maintenance fees.
When we tried to hire new accountant for the building, he suggested that company that developer registered is "For Profit Company" and that we need to setup new "Not for Profit" homeowners association.
I'm wondering whats the connection between building and homeowners association. Buildings in general are registered at attorney generals office, is homeowners association registered same time , can it be changed later?

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You can name your co op and register for profit, you can decide to manage your small co op without a managing agent or you can be your own agent. But I would suggest you look into a managing agent in good standing. I would interview a few before you choose one some charge a lot for doing very little. I'd look into Cooper Square they turned so many co op's around and well known, I would not interview EBMG Excel they are very high price and do very little. Even though your a small co op you need to have a board or look to see who can be a treasurer who will look and pay bills and over see your debits/credits. Also look around your neighborhood and see who they use all, buildings have a plate with the agents name and #. Word of mouth is also good. If your lawyer knows of an accountant with co op experience you can also check the Habitat they are great for information. At 1st it's a lot of work to set up an honest managing agent. But with the right agent they will guide you through this process. Good Luck

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I feel your first order of business should be to have an attorney look into the actual form of your condo's association (for profit vs not for profit) and advise you what is best and what you need to do. The two types of corporations are very different, and I believe (I am not a lawyer) being not for profit is much more beneficial for your unit owners and for tax purposes.

This being said, there may be extenuating circumstances which make being for profit better in your particular situation. This is why I suggested working with an attorney. The attorney can also help you get your building into the best legal form allowable, and answer your other questions.

Good luck!

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Admission - Billy Joe Jun 11, 2017

I have two questions.
First: I'm a Board member in a co-op and the sponsor and another Board member were supposed to interview a person who wanted to rent my apartment. The sponsor told me that I was not allowed to be present during the interview. I responded that I could be present but not vote. The reason I wanted to be at the meeting was to make sure that they give the correct information to the applicant. The sponsor and the other board member walked out. Do I have the right to be present at the interview and not participate.
Second. A month later a Board member stated that it was voted unanimously to reject the tenant without an interview. Can one Board member interview a tenant and make a decision without discussing it with the other board members.

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Did the sponsor give you a reason why you couldn't sit in? Did you interview your renter yourself before they went for the interview? If your answer is yes you did interview the renter before the board approved then I would have trusted my fellow board members. By you insisting on being in the room made them so upset they walked out. I would talk to them and apologize for the misunderstanding. The full board voted to reject your tenant because you did not trust the Admissions committee to interview them without you.

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Question #1: Since you are a board member who participates in perspective subtenant interviews and since it is your perspective subtenant who is being interviewed, your other board member might have felt you had a conflict of interest. Even if you remained silent at the interview, the simple fact of your presence could have influenced other board members into asking "softball" questions or not asking pertinent but difficult questions out of deference to you. It's just not a good idea for a board member who has a perspective purchaser or tenant to participate in that interview.

Your comment about "...make sure they give the correct information to the applicant" concerns me. It sounds like you and other board members have differences of opinion about what the subtenant should or should not be told. Your predisposition to approve your own subtenancy could easily color what you say, and this could be of concern to the other board members.

Question #2: Unless specifically stated otherwise in the proprietary lease or bylaws, there is no minimum limit on the number of attendees at a purchaser or subtenant interview. You first wrote the board voted unanimously to reject your tenant. Then you asked if only one board member could interview and then unilaterally make a decision about the tenant. This seems contradictory as to the number of board members involved.

Many boards vote to reject purchasers and subtenants without an interview. This usually occurs if, for example, the board feels a purchaser's financials are not strong enough, there is something unsavory revealed in a background check, the purchaser or subtenant has any sort of diplomatic immunity (impossible to control or evict), things like this.

Most attorneys strongly recommend that the interview be used to meet-and-greet and not as a venue for discovery. Once the purchaser/subtenant and the board meet face to face and if they are rejected, it is much more difficult to defend against charges of discrimination of a protected class.

All in all, it sounds like your board acted appropriately and you simply should have recused yourself from the interview.

Kinda long, but I hope this helps.

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inspections - PC Jun 10, 2017

I live in a cooperative, not in NY. I'd like to know if all cooperatives require to have annual inspections of the units. If it's required by law, what kind of law that is. What is the main purpose. If there are pre-established guidelines. How to avoid overstepping by the person doing the inspection and whether it's legal for this person to carry a camera and take pictures.
Thank you.

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I've never heard of coops doing annual inspections, but I would expect there to be something in the bylaws, house rules, etc. stating that it will be done. What are they looking for? Hoarders? Washers/dryers if not permitted? Some localities do house inspections periodically for tax assessment purposes, but the building staff would not be doing that.
In my coop, we provide an 'apartment condition checklist' to be reviewed by the super in the presence of a new owner or renter/sublet to verify that drains drain, faucets are not dripping, lights/outlets work, windows/latches/locks in good repair, etc. Then the necessary parties are advised of any deficiencies. I have thought about having building staff do 'preventative' inspections - check window locks and latches, drain pipes under sinks once a year or so, haven't implemented it.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Add to all of the above -
Annually a required changing the AC filters and inspection to see legally required detectors are working.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

My co-op does annual inspections. We absolutely have that right. We are looking for hoarders who could cause a safety issue, but we are also looking for people who are hiding things like dishwashers, washers, dryers.

In addition, we are looking for people who might be renting out rooms (looking for room dividers).

Unfortunately, it's a fact that a small percentage of shareholders are dishonest. Their cheating ways jeopardize the financial well being of the co-op, in addition to the safety and security of the shareholders.

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I agree with JG. I've never heard of a board requiring and/or performing any regularly scheduled inspection. As a rule, board members cannot enter an apartment without the shareholder's explicit permission unless they believe an emergency condition exists. Your proprietary lease and house rules should state this, and any exceptions to the rule, such as an annual inspection.

Have you asked the board for the reason they want to perform an inspection? Without an emergency condition existing I believe you have the right to refuse entry. If they insist or demand entry to inspect without documented authority you may need to contact an attorney.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Thank you for all the responses.
To JG and Steven 424 I'd like to say that I've only been living at this coop for 3 years and I didn't know much about housing coops when I moved in.
The inspections were already included in the Rules and Regulation, under housekeeping: "Inspections of all units will be done once every eighteen months" "The purpose of the inspection shall be to evaluate conditions which may be hazardous to life, health or safety of the occupants and those in the adjoining units" Of course that could be interpreted differently by different people and I don't know if it happens in your coops but in ours we've had a lot of turnover in terms of Board and Office Managers who are the ones conducting the inspections. Besides the inspections itself, that many members find intrusive, unpleasant and irksome, the failing of the inspection can set up a procedure for eviction. I don't know how many people have been evicted as a result of an inspection but I know cases where they have sent eviction notices.
I would like to ask you if you all belong to the NAHC and if there are other associations. I've read about coops but I'd like to have some support and a way to compare notes in the world of housing cooperatives. I've never got any response to my questions from the NAHC. It's a good thing that I found this forum. Thank you all!

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

All of my experience has been with cooperative apartments in NYC. I know there are many different flavors of co-ops and condos in other parts of the country, with many different rules and regulations and customs. You might want to use Google to search for more localized information. If you live in Chicago, try googling "Chicago cooperative apartments" and see what turns up.

To find out more about NYC co-ops and condos, take a look at the Council of NYC Cooperatives and Condominiums here: https://www.cnyc.com/ . This is the main umbrella trade organization representing and advocating for NYC co-ops and condos. If you ask a question on their website someone might be able to recommend a similar organization in your locale.

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It is not legal to take pictures of your place by any means and if they do without your permission I'd talk/contact my lawyer. If your by laws state this requirement you have 2 choices. (1) Try to change it....(2) Sell as ASAP. Now that you have learned this lesson next time read the by laws before you buy and get a lawyer who should have advised you not to buy. Best of Luck

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I find this site very helpful.

http://codes.findlaw.com/ny/business-corporation-law/

Good Luck

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Special Meeting - Queens Jun 07, 2017

What is the next step after you have presented the board with the proper documentation but they ignore your request for a Special Meeting?

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Try this URL. It looks like a good place to start:
http://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/1448/co-op-or-condo-complaint

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Absentee Proxies - Queens Jun 05, 2017

Are absentee proxies allowed at a Special Meeting called by the members or do all members have to physically be present?

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You need to check with a lawyer, but NY BCL Section 609 provides that a shareholder can act at any shareholder meeting by proxy.

If the shareholders are calling a meeting to amend the By-Laws or Prop Lease or do anything else of substance, you should definitely have a lawyer to advise the Board/Shareholders and make sure the proper procedures are followed.

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Amending The Bylaws - Queens Jun 03, 2017

We want to add an amendment to our bylaws. We currently have 2/3 of the members who signed a petition for this amendment. Is 2/3 considered a majority of the entire regular membership of record?

Article VIII of our bylaws states ”The by-laws may be amended by the affirmative vote of the majority of the entire regular membership of record”.
It further states “Amendments may be proposed by the board of directors or by petition signed by at least twenty (20) percent of the members.

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Signing a petition is not the same as voting. If 2/3 of all the members in your building signed the petition, it sounds like you have more than enough signatures to require the board to put the amendment up for a membership vote.

Check your bylaws to see if there are any conditions or requirements for an amendment vote. Some bylaws require a special member meeting at which the vote is taken. There may be other stipulations as well.

To pass the amendment, more than 50% of *all* members (not just more than 50% of the members at the meeting) must vote in favor of the amendment. Full attendance is very important. If your building has 100 members and only 60 show up at the meeting, you still need 51 members voting to ratify the amendment. 31 members (more than half of the members at the meeting) will not be enough. Check if proxy votes are allowed at a special meeting. Thay may help you get to the required majority of all members.

If your building has an attorney, check with them for the best interpretation of your bylaws and especially the meaning of the word "member".

Good luck!

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> Join the conversation Comments (2)

Steven - My co-op has different rules from yours, just to let the original poster know that not all co-ops have the same rules.

To amend the by-laws in my co-op, we must have 2/3 approval of the members present at the special meeting (usually our Annual Meeting) - provided we have a quorum.

Steven makes a good point of checking your by-laws to review how to pass an amendment. My experience with by-laws is that procedures for amending the by-laws normally are always specifically discussed in the by-laws.

My experience with amending by-laws is different from Steven's. The lawyers and building managers that I know have said that their co-ops must have 2/3 approval of the members present at the special meeting in order to amend the by-laws.

This is why it's important to review your specific by-laws. Good luck!

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Thanks Marty, the rest of article vIII at any reg. Or sp. Mtg., provided that no amendment shall become effective unless and until it has received the written approval of the administration. Amendments may be proposed by the B.O.D. or by petition signed by at least 20 percent of the members. A description of any proposed amendment shall accompany the notice at any Reg. Or Sp. Mtg. At which such proposed amendment is to be voted upon.

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Thanks Steven, very helpful response.

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Estate Failing to Act in an HDFC - marym May 30, 2017

We are a small, self-managed HDFC with all shareholders pitching in to do everything from mopping halls; garbage and recyclable disposal; treasurer duties; challenging tax assessments; interacting with real estate brokers and lawyers when there is a sale - and many other duties - and nobody gets paid. One of our shareholders died in November 2015 but her apartment remains empty as her estate has not been wound up. Her brother, who lives out of state, is her executor and hasn't even emptied out her apartment yet. The Estate is paying the maintenance but we need somebody living in the apartment and participating in the chores and running of the building. This is especially important since we are an HDFC. We do have a residency clause in our Lease. The executor was appointed by the Surrogate's Court in September 2016, almost a year after his sister's death, but there has been no accounting yet to the court. What can we do to force a sale or otherwise take over the shares?

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Is the Estate in violation of any clause in the Proprietary Lease or House Rules?
You'll need to check with an attorney whether/how the residency clause in the lease applies to an estate.

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severe bed bug infestation; shareholder won't cooperate - Leah May 20, 2017

My wife and I own a coop in Brooklyn. Seven months ago we began having bed bugs. All units near ours were checked, but for months our neighbor across the hall would not let the inspector/exterminator in. After months, the building got entry only to discover "the worst" bed-bug scene the exterminator had ever seen. The apartment was so cluttered, it could be exterminated. After months of negotiation, one extermination has finally happened (now that bed bugs have spread to multiple units and remain in ours), but, the exterminator says, the apartment is so filthy, little progress can be made. The man whose unit this is is the treasurer of the building! The exterminator says all possessions must be thrown out, the unit cleaned and painted, the whole building treated. Everyday we wait, the infestation gets worse. The owner of the unit REFUSES to cooperate. My wife and I believe it is time for a Pullman vote to cancel his shares. However, the board refuses to move forward with this vote. We are now thinking of retaining our own lawyer. We have lived with our belongings in bags for months. We feel constantly anxious at home. We still see bugs in our place, despite 6 treatments. My wife is on the board as well. We feel the board is violating its fiduciary duty by refusing to act quickly. We feel not only our unit, but the building is at risk because of this infestation. What can we do?

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Very sorry to hear about this. There's no scarier word in a co-op than bedbug.

I agree with you in that my first thought is that this is a health and safety issue, so the treasurer's apartment and every other apartment needs to be examined and treated if necessary. This needs to be done immediately - regardless of who the shareholders are.

Besides your wife's opinion, why does the rest of the not want to move forward? THAT is very troubling to hear about your Board. Not a good sign.

I wouldn't worry about pulling his shares - that's the least of your problems.

I'm not an attorney, but I would notify the rest of the Board that you will be immediately contacting your co-op's attorney, and tell him/her to do whatever is necessary to get into the apartment ASAP. Ask your attorney if the NYC Board of Health needs to be notified, too. Keep your building manager in this loop. Time is of the essence and you cannot wait a moment longer. Everyone must work together to fix this problem.

This is way past what the treasurer wants or doesn't want. You MUST get into the apartment to do what needs to be done. The Board legally owes that to the other shareholders.

How many other shareholders and apartments are there?

Since the treasurer won't cooperate, I'm guessing that you'll likely need legal justification (attorney) and/or health/safety justification (NYC Board of Health) to make things happen quickly.

I agree that the Board is violating their fiduciary duty, which opens up a whole different can of worms.

When we learned of an infestation about 5-6 years ago, we were fortunate that the shareholder was very cooperative, so he made it easy for us on the Board to quickly nip the problem in the bud.

I wish you a safe and quick resolution to your problem and keep us posted.

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Others may have different opinions, but my advice is to retain your own lawyer asap. The situation you describe, a board officer who is uncooperative and a hoarder, a board that refuses to acknowledge or address the situation, multiple ineffective exterminations, apparent gross violations of the warranty of habitability... this will not have a good ending. Your own lawyer will, at least, help you prepare for what is sure to become a litigious situation.

There are probably less expensive intermediate steps you can take such as lodging complaints with 311, the Board of Health, Dept of Buildings, etc, but something like this needs a coordinated, focused approach that an attorney will provide.

If you can't afford to retain an attorney, try searching Google for suggestions. Keep in mind that at some point you and the board will most likely be adversaries. If this happens, having an attorney who is familiar with your situation will save you a lot more financially and emotionally than the up front costs.

Good luck to you.

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I don't understand why the board nor the managing agent won't act on this nor your wife who's on the board can't get anything done. If this was me I'd get in touch with the health dept. I'd call 311 and go to see Brad Lander
City government office in New York City, New York
Address: 456 5th Ave & 3rd Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11215
Phone: (718) 499-1090. Explain your dilemma. They can also advise you.
Document everything and if you can take pictures with dates and show proof. With all this in hand consult a lawyer who can advise you of what to do, also calling 311 and explaining what's going on. Best of Luck

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Dear All,
Thank you so much for the comments. We plan to hire our own lawyer this week. We have documented everything--with notes, photos, emails and so on. If anyone has a real estate attorney they would recommend, please comment here. We really appreciate it!

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> Join the conversation Comments (2)

Once they're in a building, it's nearly impossible to get rid of them. They end up in the walls. Everywhere. Good luck.

I had a wonderful real estate attorney who closed on my coop seven years ago. I don't know if he also does this kind of litigation or not: Arnold Spiegel, (212) 687-5225
Email SPIEGELRELAW@GMAIL.COM

You should also check with the NYS AG office.

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Leah - I did some research and came across this article:

https://www.habitatmag.com/Publication-Content/Legal-Financial/2014/2014-February/Co-op-Board-Bedbug-Responsibilities.

The article was written by an attorney with familiarity in these matters, so you might want to contact him if you don't already have an attorney you use. I still recommend you hire your own attorney to protect *your* rights and interests as a shareholder, and not because you are a board member.

If push comes to shove (and it sounds like it will) do you think you can gather enough shareholder votes to demand a special meeting of the shareholders to discuss and take action on this issue? The rules for special meetings should be in your bylaws. If you can get the votes, then you can override the board's inactions, get the co-op's attorney involved (he may feel he has a conflict of interest because another board member is involved), and you can contact the co-op's insurance company to see if any of the extermination expenses are covered by your policy.

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assessment submitted as insurance claim - pk May 15, 2017

Has anyone had experience submitting an assessment claim to their insurance for Sandy damages? Any words of advice?My building filed a Sandy claim recently as the deadline was approaching. We received money, but not what was claimed and the work still needs to be done and the Board is considering an assessment now. My HO6 insurance has coverage up to $10k, but can anyone speak to having filed a claim like this and how it went?

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In my opinion, your most reliable source of information about what is and is not covered by your HO6 policy is your insurance agent or broker. HO6 policies come in all sizes, colors, and flavors, and can have a myriad of different endorsements.

If your policy has an item called "Loss Assessment", you may very well be covered and can file a claim. Here is my ins co's definition of Loss Assessment:

--------------------------------------------------------------------
Loss Assessment
Coverage D

This valuable condominium unitowners insurance coverage is uniquely designed for owners in condominiums/ associations. It recognizes the potential for owners to be assessed for certain kinds of loss. Here are examples of circumstances that might require the condominium association to assess all unit owners:

* Someone is seriously injured on common property (perhaps at a swimming pool) and the courts award a judgment that's higher than the amount of liability coverage provided by the condominium/association policy.
* Major damage occurs to commonly owned buildings and it is not fully covered by insurance.

For covered losses, loss assessment coverage would pay your share, up to the limit of coverage you select. You should review the need for this coverage with your agent and buy an appropriate amount of coverage.
--------------------------------------------------------------------

Your best bet is to check with your ins agent or broker.

Good luck!

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Thanks for responding. I did call my insurance agent and all they could say was open a claim and we will send out the adjuster. They couldn't tell me what to submit, nothing. I have Liberty Mutual. I have coverage for it. I thought with all the Sandy damage, that someone might be able to speak from experience.

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From my experience with insurance companies, they view each claim as unique. They will not commit to anything until an adjuster has had a chance to survey the loss and issue a report. This is a neutral process - the adjuster may find issues which will increase your reimbursement(s).

Suggest you follow their procedure, submit a claim in their requested format, and see what happens. If, after the adjuster has visited the site and issued her/his report, they will ask for additional information if they need it. Submitting a claim sounds like it's the only way to get the ball rolling.

This is just from my experiences. Others may have different advise.

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Basement Ceiling Question - Maria May 10, 2017

I manage a small condo building (28) units. We currently have drop ceilings in the basement, which I've led to believe are not legal by NYC Code. Can anyone confirm this? In addition, if this is in fact true, I would like to remove the drop ceiling and leave the pipes exposed, paint same and clean up the pipes/wires. Any thoughts? Would appreciate input. Thanks!

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I like your idea of removing those ugly ceiling tiles and cleaning up and painting the pipes. Have you tried to removed one to see what's going on up there? It sounds like your leaning for removing them. I'd go for it. Good Luck.

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I agree with PC1, go ahead and remove the ceiling. I've not heard of any laws about the legality of a drop ceiling in the basement, but I'm sure removing it will not cause any headaches.

In case you're not aware, there are some color-coding and labeling requirements for exposed infrastructure. For instance, all pipes that carry water for your sprinklers and other fire suppression services must be painted red. All natural gas pipes need to be labeled every so many linear feet (yellow stick-on labels are available for this). Your property manager should know about these requirements and help you with them.

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