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Co-op Admissions: An Attorney Reveals 3 Surprising Questions You Can't Ask

New York City

Three Admissions Questions You Can't Ask
March 28, 2013


Do you speak any other languages?

Probable intention: To make small talk.

Supposed subtext: "You're a foreigner come to pollute our building, aren't you?"

Weinstein's warning: "If the person says, 'I speak Czechoslovakian,' and you reject him, he can say that you rejected him because he was from a Balkan country. I had one case where a gentleman came before the board with a brogue and somebody on the board said, 'Is that a Scottish or Irish accent?' They rejected that candidate because he had no banking records whatsoever — his application stated that he was in a cash business and didn't keep records — but he went to the city Human Rights Commission, and they found probable cause for discrimination because he was asked in effect what his nationality was."


Why are you limping?

Probable intention: Simple curiosity.

Supposed subtext: "You're handicapped. Now we'll have to spend tons of money to make the building accessible to the disabled."

Weinstein's warning: "A limping man can be a very sympathetic plaintiff in a lawsuit."


Is that salary sufficient to pay your maintenance and your bank loan? 

Probable intention: The board is concerned about the applicant retiring and not being able to afford the maintenance.

Supposed subtext: "We are concerned about your age; you may be retiring and not be able to afford the maintenance."

Weinstein's warning: "I just was involved in a building [a few] weeks ago where my client was rejected, I believe improperly, because of her age. The board did not ask the prohibited question, 'Do you plan to retire soon?' but they came very close and they were asking about retirement income: 'Is that sufficient to pay your maintenance and your bank loan?' I seriously considered filing a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, because you cannot inquire as to retirement status of the applicant. That's age discrimination."


Attorney Arthur I. Weinstein is a solo practitioner and a founder and the vice president of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums.

Photo by Jennifer Wu.

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