Being on your co-op or condo board carries a lot of responsibility, liability, and, let's face it, headaches.
On Legal Talk, you'll meet New York's leading co-op and condo attorneys, who will offer advice and guidance for some of the peskiest problems facing boards today.
Oct. 3, 2012 – For a co-op, the proprietary lease is kind of like the Constitution: it sets the terms for everyone who enters your community, it’s hard to make changes to it, and people will be picking over its every detail for years to come. But like that famous document, eventually there comes a time where the proprietary lease needs to be brought up to date with present-day realities. That’s the subject of this week’s episode: what changes to make, how to go about enacting them, how to get your shareholders on board, and who to turn to for help. On our attorney panel, Habitat publisher Carol J. Ott talks with Steven Wagner of Wagner Davis and Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz.
Sept. 19, 2012 — The chopping and sawing you are hearing is a noisy but necessary sound as more and more cooperatives and condominiums are facing altered states. The scenarIo is simple: as new, younger people move into older apartment buildings, they are paying more and expecting more. They want to upgrade kitchens, or bathrooms, or living rooms to bring them in line with their visions of home. That’s where alteration agreements, the subject of this podcast, come into play. We will be discussing how to create and implement them: from the advisors you need to consult to the legal protections you should include.
This week, Habitat publisher Carol J. Ott talks with C. Jaye Berger, of the law offices of C. Jaye Berger, and Elliott Meisel, of Brill & Meisel.
Sept. 5, 2012 — A successful co-op or condo board knows when to trust the experts — and how to protect itself against a violation of that trust. A prime example of this tricky balancing act is putting a project out for bid. It’s a case study in the importance of collaborative decision-making and teamwork, as well as an easy target for an unethical vendor to take advantage of an unsuspecting board. Our question this week comes from a co-op board member who knows the dangers involved and has successfully navigated the waters with small-scale projects, but wants to know if there are additional projects his board should take with a million-dollar job on the horizon.
In response, our attorney panel walks us through the competitive bidding process. Who should be involved, and when? What roles should the managing agent, engineer, attorney, and board play? And how does the board protect itself against cut corners and dirty dealings? On the panel this week: Marc Schneider of Schneider Mitola and Ron Perl of Hill Wallack.
Aug. 22, 2012 — When you own an apartment, your home is not your castle – especially when it comes to matters of renovation and alteration. Alteration agreements restricting when and how apartment owners can have work done on their units are commonplace in co-ops and condos in New York. But if a condo unit-owner goes rogue and builds something unauthorized or even illegal in his or her unit, and the board turns a blind eye to the transgression, can a future board reassert its authority without getting in legal trouble? That’s the question posed to our panel this week.
On this episode we cover the basics of alterations: how co-ops and condos can and should enforce their alteration agreements (or how to enact them if they aren’t already on the books), the dangers of unauthorized construction, and the best way a new board can lay down the law in areas where unit-owners are used to getting away with murder. On the panel this week: Alan Turek of Turek Roth Mester and Geoffrey Mazel of Hankin & Mazel.
Aug. 8, 2012 — When a co-op’s shareholders want access to the corporation’s financial records, are the documents an open book – or are they a secret diary? And what if the shareholder is a former board member? That’s the question posed to our attorney panel in today’s episode. It’s a must-listen for both board watchdogs and the boards they watch.
It’s a seemingly simple question that raises a surprising number of issues. How much information do shareholders have the right to, and how much transparency is in the best interest of the corporation? And there are rules about what documents the board has to release, but are there rules about what information those documents have to contain? It’s a tricky subject with a lot of gray areas, and our panelists break it all down. On the panel this week: Eric Goidel of Borah, Goldstein, Altschuler, Nahins & Goidel and Howard Schechter of Schechter & Brucker. (Illustration by J.D. King.)
July 25, 2012 — Can an apartment be your primary residence, even if you haven’t lived there for two years? That’s the question Patricia Ingao, a board vice president at a Brooklyn co-op, is asking in this episode. Her board is grappling with a complicated and touchy situation involving an elderly rent-stabilized tenant in a nursing home, the son who’s been paying her rent, and the the tax break the co-op has been receiving in exchange for keeping her rent low.
Unfortunately, according to our attorney panel, case law on these matters is anything but clear cut. The panel covers the intersecting questions of how the co-op’s property taxes may be affected, how to determine whether the tenant will ever really return to the apartment, whether the tenant’s rights may be passed along to her son, and how to balance the desire to be a good neighbor with the co-op’s financial realities. On the panel this week: Phyllis Weisberg of Montgomery McCracken Kurzman Karelsen and Kenneth Jacobs of Smith, Buss & Jacobs. Music for this episode by Jahzaar, from freemusicarchive.org.
Your co-op board has the right to keep certain records in confidence – even from its fellow board members. But what if you aren’t confident that the board was duly elected in the first place? In this episode, Habitat’s attorney panel breaks down a complicated question from a New York co-op board member about who wins out in a battle between confidentiality and confidence – and how any prior board decisions are affected when an election is overturned.
The podcast identifies all-too-common mistakes that boards make when certifying elections – and what you need to know to cope with the confidentiality/confidence dilemma. On this week’s panel: Marc Landis of Phillips Nizer and Dean Roberts of Norris McLaughlin & Marcus. Music for this episode by Broke for Free.
June 27, 2012 — A condominium conundrum: what do you do with a condo board that is breaking all the rules – including the one that lets the unit-owners boot the bums out? On today’s episode, our attorney panel takes a question from a Queens unit-owner who is at her wit’s end with a board apparently running amok. She complains that the members are violating the rules left and right, and that when the unit-owners came together to file a petition calling for a recall election, the board simply rejected the petition. What rights do the aggrieved owners have?
As with co-op shareholders, dissatisfied condo unit-owners have the right to petition their board for a special meeting to conduct a recall election. If the petition is valid – correct wording, sufficient number of signatories, etc. – the board is legally bound to honor it. Our attorney panel shows you where to find the proper petitioning procedure, delves into what is required to recall board members, and explains what to do when the board ignores a recall petition. On the panel this week: Pierre Debbas of Romer Debbas and Ari Weiss of Fensterstock Law.
June 13, 2012 — On today’s episode, sexual harassment rears its ugly head – not among a building’s employees but within the board itself. Our attorney panel hears from a Queens co-op board member who complains of a fellow director who has been harassing her in person and through e-mail. But although she’s informed the full board of her problems with this man’s behavior – and the members have even been CC’ed on a few of the offending missives – they’ve declined to take any action. Where can she turn?
A sexual harassment situation can prove to be just as tricky, if not more so, on a co-op board as in the workplace. There’s really no boss or higher authority with whom an appeal can be lodged, but as our attorney panel points out, a dysfunctional board that fails to resolve a serious problem between two of its members – whether or not it rises to the level of harassment – may not be upholding its fiduciary duties to the corporation and its shareholders. We investigate this questioner’s options to avoid court while trying to resolve the harassment problem internally or with a corporate or personal attorney. On the panel this week are Mitchell A. Dix of Mitchell A. Dix & Associates and Lewis Montana of Levine & Montana.
May 30, 2012 — On today’s episode, our attorney panel investigates an innovative attempt at creating a new stream of income for a co-op: charging shareholders a fee if they want to bring in roommates. Our questioner, Harlem co-op board vice president Gerry Magpily, is weighing this option in his building and comes to Habitat’s podcast to ask if such a fee would be legal.
Well, it turns out that the answer to the question of whether a board can charge shareholders for having roommates depends on whether the shareholder is allowed to have a roommate in the first place – but not in the way you might think. To sort out this deceptively complex matter, our attorneys wade into the surprisingly murky issue of what a roommate actually is in the eyes of the law, when a roommate becomes a subtenant (or even something else entirely), and the similarities between having a roommate and getting away with murder. On the panel this week are Marcie Waterman Murray of Tane Waterman & Wurtzel and Joel Miller of Miller & Miller.
Thinking of buying a co-op or condo? Already bought, and not sure how co-op/condo life and rules work? Learn all about purchasing a place and living in your new community. It's not like renting, and its not like owning a house. What's it like?