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Security System - Wireless - M. Rutherford Mar 21, 2007


Our building had a hardwired system installed, then we switched over to a wireless system only to uncover a huge number of technical difficulties (configuration/administration) and requirements (dedicated electrical, authentication, etc.). We called in a smart home company to assist us with the final tweaking but it costs us more than we anticipated. Are you storing to a computer hard disk? Are you accessing via the web or an internal network? Do you have a dedicated mechanical room or closet to securely store the equipment? If possible you should use IP style cameras, not wireless cameras.


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Queens Co-op / New Board - M. Rutherford Mar 21, 2007


I was recently elected to the role of President for our 100 unit co-op in Kew Gardens. In an effort to do things different than the previous prez, I'd like to enlist the services of a consultant to help make our board more effecient in handling issues; thereby making our shareholders happier through expanded communications, customer service, mgmt. comp. liasons, and new amenities.
Does a company like this exist, or do I have to do this in a piecemeal fashion by way of research, trial and error?


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Rather than hire a consultant to find ways of doing things differently and improving board-shareholder relations, I'd brainstorm with your board and mgmt, talk to other boards, and research articles for Habitat, The Cooperator and the CNYC first. This might save you money that could be better spent elsewhere. Also, I'd wonder if shareholders would question a need to spend money for a consultant and if the board/mmgt aren't knowledgeable or creative enough to come up with approaches/idea on their own. Just my opinion.


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Seen this advertisement in Habitat for Eric Kornfeld, Consultant...917-991-8127; www.erickornfeld.com.


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Mr Rutherford,

I think your building is fortunate to have someone like you
take over. You have come into your new position with the
proper attitude. "How do we do it better"
I have been on my Board for 15 years, 10 as President, I am now retired and would be happy to share my experiences with you! In any case I wish you the best of luck! Best RBG


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8020 Website - Webmaster Mar 21, 2007


Hi BW - The site in question went down due to a major server problem. At the time, about 25 of our sites went down. It has been back up since then. Sorry for the confusion.


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Mice in apts - Board newbie Mar 21, 2007


Some of our units have a chronic mouse problem. It turns out that with the change of management we have not had an exterminator in almost a year. And the mice are back. While the Board is going to have each unit detailed for mice, and then shareholders must adhere to the monthly schedule, some of the units have huge holes behind the dishwashers that the exterminators say they "do not fill." They suggested getting a contractor to take out dishwashers and close the holes in the walls that were left from the original renovation the sponsor did in 1987. Are individual shareholders in a co-op responsible for this sort of repair work hidden wall areas? There is no way to tell what else lurks behind the kitchen cabinetry, backspashes etc.
Would appreciate knowing how other co-ops handle the repair of walls and filling in holes to prevent mice from getting in.


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Board Newbie - Funny you mention this. We just went through this after MANY months of dealing with mice. Exterminators will find areas that need to be sealed but they won't move d/w's, fridges, ranges. Shareholders have to do it or get someone to do it (the super?) and pay for it themselves.

The coop is responsible for sealing common areas but you can't require shareholders to move appliances, patch holes, etc. and pay for it unless conditions in their apt cause problems for others and the building. Also can't require them to sign up for monthly service (far as I know).

I'd suggest a few other things:
-- A notice reminding people to discard garbage promptly, tie it tightly in bags, not leave food exposed, put food from open boxes (esp cereals, grains, fatty foods) in air tight containers, and seal holes esp around baseboards, in cabinets and around pipes/gas lines. (Holes around kitchen pipes/gas lines are the most common way mice get in).

-- Check all common areas and building rooms for holes.

-- Check the building exterior, the backyard, the garage, etc. and put bait stations/traps in those areas.

-- Have your super bag loose garbage in your trash areas promptly and get it out of the building asap.

-- Check indoor/outdoor drain holes for blockages. (Mice, bugs and rats look for sources of water as well as food).


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Thanks BP, for all your good info. But I am still not clear on Co-op responsibility for mice in apartment and getting rid of them. As a shareholder in this co-op for 14 years, we never paid for exterminators, Corp. did. Certain apts have more problems than others for no known reason. I am on the Board and one of the owners with a bad mouse problem. We changed managing agents recently and the new one informs us that shareholders are responsible for exterminators and this is news to me. Additionally, it turns out there hae been no monthly exterminator visits to treat the common areas or untis since we changed management over a year ago. So I am on both sides of this and would like to be fair. It seems this would be under the warranty of habitability where one is entitled to a vermin-free apt. Any thoughts?

Thanks,
BN


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Newbie, sorry if this is long but I don't know how to reply to your questions in 25 words or less.

If your bldg's had no monthly extermination in over a year, I think that's the first thing you should focus on. Find a good exterm company, decide the level of bldg service you need and include service to apts that request it on a sign-up sheet. If a company wants your business, they may give you extras and negotiate on price. Sealing holes/cracks is critical to keep mice out and you likely have more than you did a year ago. Mice are nibblers. They can chew thru wood, plaster, vinyl, and slip through a hole as small as a dime. You should also get sweeps (barrier strips) for bottom of doors for all bldg rooms (boiler compactor, pump, storage) and doors to the outside. Get metal sweeps. Mice can chew through even the hardest rubber.

Most proprietary leases say shareholders are responsible for keeping the apt interior clean and in good repair. Our attorneys say that includes sealing holes/cracks around pipe/gas lines coming into an apt, in baseboards, etc. Have your attorney check your lease. Exterms find areas that need sealing but shareholders have to empty cabinets and move major appliances. Exterms I've dealt with wouldn't do that. They also don't seal holes/cracks, just locate them.
As I understand it, if any work beyond the scope of service covered in a contract with an exterm company is requested, the coop pays for it in bldg areas and shareholders pay for it in apts. Ask the exterms and your coop attorney. Also, look through Habitat's article archives. You can also type keyword "mice" on the Net and find a lot of info on their habits, food-search patterns, how to get rid of them, etc.

Re: mice, you said "certain apts have more problems than others for no known reason." There HAS to be a reason and it's most likely holes/cracks. It could even be a split in a hardwood floor or a "mistake" hole you made in a wall to hang something and never plastered up.

Mice forage fairly close to their nest, usually not more than 10-25 feet, and they're always looking for food or water. If they find even a tiny hole they explore, and if there's food left out, open boxes of food, food scraps in trash cans, etc. in an apt, you're going to have uninvited (and unwelcome) guests for dinner.

I can't tell you too much on the warrant of habitability. It mostly referred to rentals and gets complex with coops. The standard meaning referred to a tenant being deprived of essential functions to which he/she is reasonaby entitled, such as heat, plumbing, electricity, absence of mold or lead paint. A breach of the warrant depends on the extent of the problem, if it affects health and what, if any, corrective measure have been taken. Not sure where, but I read somewhere that a coop proprietary lease has been deemed to be no different than other (rental) leases and "Courts found that a landlord-tenant relationship is created by the proprietary lease thereby rendering the coop corporation liable for breach of the warranty." (I found that in my notes from our dealings with mice last year.)

Again, it would be wise to consult your coop attorney. I'm not an attorney so don't hold me to anything legal-ish I may have written here. :-) I hope some of this helps you.


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voting for directors and name on ballot - Anonymous Mar 21, 2007


two questions. we have "directo" voting (below) and nothing in our prop lease about how a person can get their name on to the election ballot to be a board member (director): 1) how can a person put themselves up for election on the rinted proxy that comes a few weeks before the election?

With direct voting each shareholder is permitted to vote his total number of shares for each open seat on the board. A shareholder with 1,000 shares in the co-op would be able to cast 1,000 shares for each open position.

:



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help. need the info. It may be that the slate presented on the printed proxy is only the current board that is running for reelection. need help!


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We send out a preliminary letter telling shareholders: 1) they'll receive an annual meeting notice as required and 2) to contact our mgmt office by "X date" if they want to run for the board so their name can be put on the proxy which will be mailed with the meeting notice.

Sometimes the letter says anyone who wants to run should send in a resume by "X date" but adds that a resume isn't required to run, and all resumes received will be mailed with the meeting notice. This is a good idea if it's been a very contentious year, if there are many new shareholders or if you have a big building.

The proxy includes names of everyone who indicates by "X date" they want to run. At the meeting, anyone can announce he's changed his mind and isn't running if he wants to. If any proxies are mailed in voting for him, those votes are not counted in the tally. Also note that anyone is allowed to run for the board at the meeting even if they didn't tell the mgmt office in advance or send in a resume.


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Not easy , why not try what most do, tell tall untrue tales about your opponents. That should get you on, and when you do get elected prove how good you are by working real hard
and they will all love you for it. Next year then you will be a shoe in. Good luck.


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Burned Out by Board Service - James Hardy Mar 20, 2007


I need a reality check as I am becoming burned out by my service as President.

What with weak management, apathetic shareholders, and fellow board members who are not pulling their weight, I am burning out.

Any advice?

I do not want to pack it in just yet?




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My recommendation.... Have lunch or phone conversation with a fellow Director from another co-op or condo board. It has inspired me in the past in a number of ways:
1- Generate new ideas to invigorate the Board
2- Generate new ideas to handle shareholder issues
3- Provided fantastic feedback for dealing with a weak mgmt. company.
4- Provided a nice "sounding board" for reviewing current and potential challenges.



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Soon ending my third term... I hear you : )

Maybe it's time to step back and reassess your reasons for running for the Board in the first place; did you have a plan in place when you started your tenure? Have you been able to accomplish what you wanted, or are you meeting obstacles which are frustrating you (ie., "weak management, apathetic shareholders" etc.)? Is there anything you can do to change those obstacles -- energizing your Board, engaging your Shareholders, challenging your management? Can you mitigate your own frustration in any way?

Being President is draining and time-consuming, especially if your management company or Board has come to depend on your efforts to get things done. Have you delegated enough responsibility for others to feel involved? Have you discussed your vision for the building with them and gained agreement with those goals?

Are you questioning your need for a "reality check" (and your last statement, which you made into a question, may be an indicator of this) because you're concerned that no one else is ready/willing to step up to the plate... ?


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Board president burnout is common, especially if no one is helping and things are dragging you down. You're climbing a hill but you've got a rope that's wrapped around a big rock tied to your ankle. You have to cut the rope.

Board members aren't pulling their weight? - Give them more to do, or ask for help and hope they give it. Find out what coop area most interests them (building repairs, finances, legal issues, sublets), make them the point person for that area, and have them report regularly to the board on how things are going. Also, get to knwo your shareholders. Look for potential board candidates, urge them to run at the next annual meeting and get some new faces on the board.

Weak management? - Decide where it's weakest, talk to your property manager and his supervisors, and figure out how it can be improved. Or maybe it's time to start looking for a new management company.

Shareholder apathy? - Apathy often sets in when people feel there's no point to complaints/requests because they don't think it will do any good. If they see positive changes it can make a difference. So can better communication. Have a board member start a newsletter. Make up a simple form and put a suggestion box in the mail room. Distribute a notice that announces it, tells people you want their ideas/input and say every submission will receive a reply. Put a board member in charge of it. Have the board discuss submissions and make sure replies are sent. There are always people who won't get involved but apathy can be turned around if people see changes and know that their voice matters.

As everyone on this message board probably sees by now, I write a lot. I hope my input helps in some cases and thanks to all of you for participating in this forum. I've found a lot of good advice here. It resolves a lot of problems - and it also helps to stave off burnout!


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Window Brands - Board Newbie Mar 19, 2007


Has anyone ever replaced aluminum windows with vinyl ones? Are Crystal Windows good ones? We have gotten estimates on Pella replacements and now getting some other quotes. Crystal was not 25% less than Pella but we are weighing if it is wise to go with a none national brand name. Any thoughts? Thanks,


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We didn't replace aluminum windows with vinyl, but some of our shareholders used vendors that provided windows from Crystal and all said they are happy with them. I've heard that Crystal is an award-winning company. Board directors in other co-ops have also told me good things about them. We've had no direct dealings with Crystal - just passing this along for what it's worth.


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http://www.habitatmag.com/sg2007/glass/jbf.htm. Small company is honest and fairly priced. Redid our 16 unit co-ops 100 windows efficiently and professionally. All our dealings went relatively smoothly from start to finish. At the end of the day we were pleased with the work and the results. That was our expereince. Good luck with your window project.


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a really nice thing to do (worth the cost) is to get wooden inside frames and aluminum outside frames . you can give the resident the poption of paying the difference in cost but wooden interior frames are so so so much nicer - plus you can =easily paint them to any color.


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coop may NOT institure a meet and greet - way it is Mar 19, 2007


that is an invasion of privacy - and this is illegal. They can merely ask the name of the roomate. nothing else at all. period.


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"bad" board member - steve w Mar 18, 2007


V, can you be more specific? What is "bad"? Voting their interests over the shareholders'? Spending money to improve public space on their floors instead of everyone's? Missing meetings? Forgetting to bring snacks when it's their turn?
steve w


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maintenance - steve w Mar 18, 2007


Everyone thinks the mainenance fee he/she pays is far too high. Unfortunately, most everyone bases his/her assumption on subjective feelings, not objective measures.

AdC is correct. You just can't say that $1.50/square foot is the line between a good deal and a bad deal.

In my building, we have 43 units in a 21-year-old coop in a structure that's 100 years old. Our average maintenance fee is about 88 cents per square foot (that includes a range from below 76 cents to just under a dollar).

So it's cheap in comparison to the fee in question, right? Well, yes and no.

Sure, it's low, but until a few years ago we had NO reserves. Our operating budget covered only current expenses -- that is, the corp was living month-to-month. The shareholders valued low maintenance over a financial safety net which is a foolish idea. (A few years ago, we implemented a flip tax, which created a nice reserves cushion and a healthy operating account.)

With that low maintenance, we have only 1 employee -- the super -- in a building that once had three full-time employees. It's not as clean as it was, and even minor repairs have to wait for the daily sweeping/trash/boiler oversite, and renovation monitoring. One person can do only so much.

If we charged $1.50 per square foot, we could afford to hire a handyman and a part-time doorman (we have neither), as well as afford to improve lighting, update the lobby, and start saving to upgrade our decades-old elevator.

I moved here from a co-op where the maintenance was just over $1 per square foot. It has 240 units, so with all those people paying in, the full-time building staff was more than a dozen -- and the interior was spotless. There was always someone on call to fix a problem. Two separate gardens looked immaculate. And so on.

So look at what you're paying for:
-- How many people work for the building (super, porters, handymen, doormen, concierge)?
-- How big are the reserves (higher or lower than the building's annual budget -- at least half the annual budget is a decent ballpark figure)?
-- How much of the maintenance fee is paying the mortgage (that is the tax-deductible percentage; what's left over after that portion pays all the other expenses of the building)?
-- What's the neighborhood like (neighbor buildings may try to outdo each other, which can help attract buyers should you ever sell your apt)?

And the big questions: what is the physical condition?
-- How long before the roof needs to be replaced?
-- How long before the windows need to be replaced?
-- The elevator?
-- What about repointing the bricks?
-- Any money set aside for those, or if the project was recently done, how much of the maint fee is paying for it?

Also remember that some buildings keep their maint fee low by charging an assessment that essentially lasts forever (as opposed to one that lasts two months or two years to pay for something specific). If the maint sounds low, find out if any assessments exist and when they will end (and how much they cost).

In short, no specific maintenance fee is too high or too low -- without knowing how the money is spent. Remember, the maint fee pays for everything in your building, so you should know HOW it is being spent.

If you'd like more information, send me an e-mail.


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