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Spotlight on Laundry: Can Private and Public Washing Machines Co-Exist?

Ruth Ford in Board Operations on July 22, 2014

New York City

July 22, 2014

To say "no" seems inflexible. But to say "yes" opens a Pandora's box of problems. For boards of small buildings, allowing a shareholder to install a washer/dryer can be a minefield. First, there is the loss of revenue; second, there is the additional strain on the pipes. And third, there's the risk of losing the building's laundry contract with the company leasing the machines. Once the company sees usage go down precipitously, it could pull out of the building.

So how does the board get around the conundrum and keep a sixth-floor shareholder happy while maintaining laundry room facilities for everyone else? One possibility may be to purchase the laundry room machines outright. The building could pay off the cost of the machines in a year-and-a-half through regular use of the rooms.

Getting Tubby

In one instance, one East Side co-op found a novel way out of the problem of shareholders desiring their own washers and dryers. The board announced that anyone who wanted a washing machine could have one, but, at the same time, had to install a tub into which the water from the machine would first drain. In this way, the pipes were protected from a sudden onslaught of gallons of water each time someone used a washing machine in an apartment, and shareholders thought twice about carving out space in their homes for an extra tub.

But many managing agents say the best answer is to just say, “No.” Co-ops are generally located in older buildings, and the plumbing that was installed years ago was not meant to sustain added water pressures. And when it comes to a contest between an unhappy shareholder and a broken pipe, the pipe wins every time.



Adapted from "Rinse Request" by Ruth Ford, Habitat July/Aug. 2003

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