New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

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house rules / violations - Ellen Jan 02, 2021

I own a unit in a small coop building. The Board recently redid the old house rules and added a rule stating that people are not allowed to write in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the building and adding that anyone in violation will be fined. Can a coop board create and enforce a rule when it pertains to property that is not actually part of the coop? My understanding of this is that the sidewalk located off the property is not within the coop's jurisdiction and that any writing (as long as it is not libelous) is simply freedom of expression. Can anyone clarify whether such a house rule can be enforced?

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Firstly, the right to impose fines must be in the proprietary lease. If it is not, then they are unenforcable.

Secondly, I believe that sidewalks are public. What you should go out and write in chalk is that this is a dumb rule.

But what is the reason to impose such a rule? Was someone writing something offensive on the sidewalk?

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Fees - Saft Dec 30, 2020

May fees be assessed for a particular issue verbally and not in writing ? . Or does any assessed fee need to be in writing whether or not the authority to assess in general is written in the proprietary lease ?

Thank you

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

You don’t say what kind of fee it is. Is it a capital assessment? Will it appear on your monthly invoice?

Check the prop lease to see if it states that the Board has the authority to impose other kinds of fees. If it doesn’t say it outright, then they may not be able to. I think there’s case law on this.

Maybe an RE Attorney will chime in on this.

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Thank you

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Emergency notification system - emkharts Dec 30, 2020

Recently our coop had a gas leak that required the fire dept to air out the building for about 2 hrs. A shareholder was not home and somehow their stove dial was turned on. The porter smelled heavy gas and it was so much that it could have exploded if someone sparked electricity. Anyway, our coop has no emergency notification system in place. No tenants were notified and the only way to find out was to go outside and ask someone. A couple weeks ago, during the big snowstorm the building also lost heat/hot water and the elevator broke down at the same time. Again, no way for any tenants to know other than a paper notice posted on the elevator.
Is this normal? Aren't emergency notification systems pretty inexpensive and considered a must for liability for a coop these days? How do you get your board to address this issue? At the very least, the management could make a group text on their own from the super. Is that too much to ask?

> Join the conversation Comments (2)

The product besides being the most advanced intercom system on the market, also has a built in resident notification system. Can send out emergency notifications to everyone in seconds, from anywhere.
www.MVIsystems.com

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Thanks Samuel, unfortunately our coop just replaced the intercom system last year. Not sure what company it is but it rings to our cell phones now. Clearly no notifications included.

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> Join the conversation Comments (3)

This should be up to your board and your managing agent, it is up to them to address any problems in the building. Such as water shut offs elevators shut down and have all residence emergency numbers and set up an e-mail notification linked to all shareholders. etc.
This gas was your neighbors fault and your building staff should have had a key to everyones apt. or spare key given to a trusted neighbor. Send an e-mail to your managing agent and your board addressing your concerns and ideas for a future emergency. Good Luck

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We use a commercial email distribution service called Mailchimp. Depending on the size of your mailing list, the very basic service will probably be free. It can satisfy all the situations you described above except for real-time notification of a gas leak, and hopefully, you won't have too many of those.

Mailchimp is a robust service and does have a bit of a learning curve, so you might check if any of your shareholders have experience using it.

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You should look into the onecallnow.com system. Low cost and always dependable.

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For these types of quick communication, I'd set up a building-wide google group to allow for an email to be sent out to everyone at once.

If residents don't have access to email, I'd use a text service, such as Textline, to get out texts from the company or Board.

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maintenance raise - DP Dec 29, 2020

Is anyone experiencing excessive maintenance raises?
Now, when people are struggling to survive and NYC is putting moratoriums in place to help keep people in their homes, my coop raised our maintenance 15%! Just horrifying.

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

A 15% increase is certainly substantial, but the co-op's circumstances may dictate that it's needed. Did your co-op issue a statement explaining why they felt a 15% increase was necessary? They should have.

I will also bet that your co-op's property taxes and water bills had tremendous increases this year - like all co-ops in NY - since everyone is home and using water like crazy. Property taxes have skyrocketed in the past 10 years. DeBlasio hates co-ops and look at us as cash cows to fund his pet programs.

Did your co-op face any unusually large expenses this year - like repairs to the boiler and the roof? That may be a factor. Is the co-op facing legal problems that cost $$? Maybe some apartments didn't pay their maintenance due to shareholders losing their jobs in the pandemic.

Did your co-op recently replace the elevator to comply with the new guidelines? If so, that's several hundred thousand dollars.

Maintenance increases should not be evaluated for just one year. That's just giving you a snapshot right now. I feel that you must look at your maintenance over a 10-12 year period in order to properly determine if increases were warranted and if they were excessive. The longer the period that you evaluate, the more accurate the evaluation will be.

What's the co-op's mortgage situation? That could also be a factor.

I recommend that you talk to a Board member and ask for a complete explanation. That will be the only way to find out the real reason.

Good luck.

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

Thank you, Marty, for the very complete answer. I know everything that you've suggested. And yes, the building itself has had issues, and we're operating with a somewhat illegitimate board. Answers are not to be found there, and I won't go into here.

I just wanted an idea who else's coop is being so over-the-top in the midst of dire financial circumstances.

Thanks again and safe new year.

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15% maintenance increase is a little harsh being we are experiencing a high rate of unemployment and pay cuts. My question is why didn't your board have an assessment instead of a monthly increase. This would be a one time deal.
Look at it this way, your board has to also pay the 15% maintenance hike. Thinking your board is doing things that is causing financial hardship you can do 2 things (1) Run for the board (2) Put your apt. up for sale and run if you can. Good Luck

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> Join the conversation Comments (1)

PC #1 brings up the very important issue of a maintenance increase versus an assessment, especially during the pandemic. There are no easy answers. As a point of reference, we asked our accountant this same question a few months ago and this is what he said...

"Generally an assessment is used to solve a one time (or temporary) issue...because it is a temporary solution. For example, back in the days when oil prices surged due to the Middle East war shortly after 9-11, many coops passed a Fuel Assessment to remain in place for as long as the oil prices were elevated. The more common situation for an assessment is to fund a Capital project. The capital project is generally a once-in-a-very-long-time event....so an assessment is ideal to fund such a project.

When it comes to implementing an assessment for an on-going issue (like a budget deficit caused simply by rising prices (in RE Taxes, wages, etc...), the "temporary" assessment concept simply won't work because the assessment will have to be implemented every year....and will likely have to be increased as the deficit grows.

I've seen some co-ops try to solve a "budget" deficit with an assessment equal to one month's maintenance charges...then the next year it becomes a two month assessment...and so on until they do away with the assessments and replace them with a maintenance increase."

I agree with PC that your 2 option are run for the Board or run away and sell your apartment.

Good luck.

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Coop/condo tax abatement to end? - DM Dec 26, 2020

Our coop says they have heard from someone in the know in Albany there is little support for this annual abatement and it will probably be terminated in its entirety within the next year or two.

I doubt this.

Has anyone else heard this?

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

I hear it almost every year... <chuckling> Perhaps this article will put your mind at ease https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/benefits/landlords-coop-condo.page

What I believe is ending this year is the 421-A Tax Abatement. This is completely separate from the Real Estate Tax Abatement you're asking about and was given to new developments under certain conditions.

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Recommendations for very low-cost management companies - Elisa Dec 23, 2020

I would appreciate getting recommendations for very low-cost management companies. I live in a building with very few units, and our inexpensive management company doesn't provide timely services. They also seem lacking in knowledge about minimal safety procedures (e.g., providing clear exit signs in case of fire). We have to nag and nag to get them to fulfill their responsibilities. Recommendations for management companies that provide minimal, but competent, service would be helpful. Thanks!

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

The Habitat comes out every year with names of all managing agents with ratings, employees and how many buildings they manage. Use the search to find it.
You can also check around your area buildings they have the managing agent listed as you enter the building. Ask them questions about the agent.
As I have been talking to several board members they recommend changing managing agents every few years. They do get lack/lazy managing employees, shareholders complaints, building safety or anything that needs managing. Most agents leave the jobs up to the building board. Make sure you do your homework in checking all managing agents before you sign a contract. I know a couple of buildings that have to change agent until they find a perfect fit. Good Luck

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coop building insurance Company - Vicky Dec 21, 2020

Can anyone recommend a few good insurance companies for our coop? We are under 80 units in queens.
Can you email me directly at nyccoop@yahoo.com?
Thank you
Vicky

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Non Union Garden Co op - Diane Dec 18, 2020

We are a 100 unit garden apartment non union co op in Queens, N.Y.C.   We presently have 1 live in super. The super is also a shareholder who has his maintenance, washer/dryer/ dishwasher, air conditioner, parking spot and garage fees paid for by the co op.  We have been union free for about 4 years now.  He knew we were a union free co op when He was hired. However, now he has said that he wants to join the union even though he knew we were a union free co op.  What recourse does the co op have because we don't want a union super?
Thanks in advance

> Join the conversation Comments (2)

Hi - Everything you wrote is secondary to the desire of your super to join a union. You present some very convoluted issues regarding your super: also a shareholder, having all of his living expenses subsidized by the co-op etc.

The only advice I can offer is to immediately contact an attorney who *specializes* in labor and union relations. The rules and regulations regarding unionization are complex even in a plain vanilla situation. Yours sound like they're on the next level.

Any missteps taken today can haunt you for years. You need a specialist who knows the law, knows the regs, and who can guide you along the path you and your co-op want to travel.

Remember, especially in this kind of situation, legal advice you receive here is worth what you pay for it.

Good luck!
--- Steve

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What a great setup for your super, your coop is so generous why would anyone want to be in the union? Being on the board for many years I would look for another super. It sounds like he wants protection on getting out of doing work in your building 24/7 he seems much too comfortable. I really don't understand why so many coops and condos give their super so much power and credit for hanging out in there apartments all day, while the other help covers for them.
Steven is correct to go see a lawyer that does this kind of law. Please reconsider on hiring a new energetic super. Best of Luck

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I don’t have any solutions but I agree with the general consensus of trying to legally avoid any of your staff going union. I also am in a NYC Co-op, and the staff is unionized. The staff in general does the least amount of work possible without getting fired, and it’s impossible to fire them. You’d think they’d be grateful that they have benefits, job security, pensions, health insurance, but they are always complaining about the work, the pay, the schedule and pretty much everything. They remind me of tenured teachers and professors who know they cannot be fired. And I’ve read that unionized building staff costs owners 40% more. The trouble is that we are such a union friendly city that in you cannot fire someone for wanting to go union. I’d start keeping a log of any behaviors of his that you are unhappy with. Make it computerized so you can show your concerns about his performance pre-date his desire to go Union. Sorry I don’t have any advice but I feel your pain. The next building I buy in will be non-union.

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Transparency of Board Officers - Gouverneur Gardens Dec 16, 2020

What are your thoughts about Board Officer negotiating ,dealing with contractors, and vendors without full transparency or approval from the rest of the Board?

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

It depends on many factors, not all of which are sinister.

For example, the board officer may have been previously authorized to negotiate in the name of the co-op, and given prior authorization to enter into a contract up to a certain dollar amount. This is done to save the rest of the board time and effort where their contributions would be of little value.

Yes, I would want such a duly authorized board member to report back to the rest of the board on any binding actions s/he took, but when a single board member is authorized to negotiate for the board, it implies a level of trust and acknowledgment of their effectiveness in the negotiations.

Each board has a different way of dealing with issues that come before them and they have to deal with. Without additional information about the nature of the board officer's dealings with the contractors and vendors, it's difficult to make any judgments.

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Doorman selecting whom he opens door for - is this common? - DM Dec 16, 2020

The doorman in our coop will not open the door for delivery people. He will sit and ignore them.
This seems discriminatory to me - is it common?

> Join the conversation Comments (1)

I don't know how common it is, but it is impolite, uncouth, and definitely casts your building in a terrible light.

You might mention something to your board or managing agent to let them know your disapproval of the doorman's actions. They may not be aware of the elitist attitude of one of their employees.

There may also be another side to the situation. Does your building have a service entrance separate from the main entrance? It may be that this particular delivery person has been asked multiple times to use a different entrance and is ignoring the request.

Bottom line is, the doorman is an employee of the co-op. If you are not pleased with his actions or demeanor, as a shareholder politely and factually bring it before the board or MA and ask if they can do something about it.

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