James J. Veneruso in Board Operations on November 5, 2013
Major contracts. Any contract beyond a nominal amount, and those with terms exceeding one year, should be reviewed by legal counsel. Examples of major contracts include roofing, boiler, elevators, and lobby or common area renovations.
Insurance coverage. Counsel should be consulted on the amount and types of insurance coverage, and scope of directors' and officers' coverage.
Requests for reasonable accommodations and disability-related matters. These are becoming more common and, when not handled properly, result in discrimination claims being filed at the federal/state levels. If successful, the lawsuits may result in substantial fines and penalties. The most common requests for a reasonable accommodation include exceptions to pet policies, relocation or re-assigning of parking spaces, and improved methods of access to building areas.
For example, one of our client co-op boards recently received a request for a special accommodation in the form of a reassigned parking space as close as possible to the building's front entrance. The shareholder suffered from numerous physical disabilities that made it difficult for her to walk. The board considered the request, consulted with counsel and provided a parking space immediately adjacent to entrance. Granting this requested accommodation was a deviation from the co-op's established parking policy and method for assigning parking spaces.
We have found, time and again, that what shareholders and unit-owners request is increased transparency. Boards should strive to accomplish more effective communication with residents. This will help ensure compliance with their fiduciary obligations. It also creates awareness that the board is fulfilling its duty.
James J. Veneruso is managing partner of Veneruso, Curto, Schwartz & Curto.
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