Habitat spoke recently with David Amster, president of Prime Locations Management.
The city's demographics and wealth are changing. Are house rules one area where co-op and condo boards need to adapt to these changes?
Absolutely. We're finding that boilerplate house rules that were written 30 years ago don't really apply to today's buildings, lifestyles, or population. For example, 30 years ago nobody hung TV’s on their wall. We're getting a lot of issues in buildings nowadays, especially those built with thin walls, when someone hangs a big-screen TV on a wall – and the people next door, the people upstairs, and the people downstairs hear it. And it's a problem.
How can a board address it?
Some of our boards have adopted a policy, which has ended up in the house rules, where you cannot hang a TV on a wall that adjoins another apartment. It's fine to put it up on a wall within your apartment, or a wall facing the outdoors.
Give us another example of a house rule that needed to be changed.
One of the other issues we came across recently was a resident who complained that his neighbor was spying on him. And lo and behold, everybody knows about these new doorbells that people can hang up on their doors that have a camera to make sure packages aren't stolen. That may work in a private home, but sometimes it doesn't work in an apartment building where the camera’s view is your neighbor’s apartment door across the hall, both open and closed.
Did the board have to rewrite the house rules?
We had the shareholder remove the doorbell on the grounds that he shouldn't be putting anything in a common area. But the board later wanted to address the matter so that it wouldn't be an issue again. With these things becoming more popular, we entered it into the house rules.
These are sort of ad hoc questions – a noisy TV, an intrusive video camera. Do you recommend that boards take a holistic approach to all their house rules?
Yes, absolutely. It doesn't pay to just add one rule here or one rule there. I think it's important that every so often you review the house rules. Take issues that have come up in the building over the last couple of years, and then address the house rules as a whole. And bring them into modern times.
How often should boards do that?
It really depends. Most buildings have never addressed the problem, or they address it piecemeal. But I think you have got to take a look at the changing society and changing technologies, and every one to three years review the matter. If things become an issue, write them down so you'll remember them the next time you're addressing the house rules.
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