June 14, 2017 — If boards follow the governing documents, alteration agreements are hard to fight.
Combining apartments is all the rage in New York City, as the real estate market continues to climb, the crime rate continues to fall, and a growing number of young couples decide to forego the charms of suburbia and raise their families in the city. For this demographic, big apartments are gold.
But alterations and apartment combinations can bring headaches – and lawsuits – for co-op and condo boards, unless they have an iron-clad alteration agreement in place to ensure that all work is done with proper insurance, in a timely fashion, and in keeping with the approved plans.
A co-op board in Greenwich Village recently approved a shareholder’s plan to combine two apartments. The renovation includes punching new windows through the 60-year-old building’s brick facade, which has been plagued by problems in the past. A worried shareholder poses this question to the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times: “Is it safe to have new windows carved out of the brick?”
“There is not much you can do to stop the construction,” says attorney Andrew Bart, an associate at Wenig Saltiel – provided the board consulted an architect or engineer, considered the condition of the building, and adhered to the governing documents before approving the alteration agreement.
At this point in the process, worried shareholders’ options are limited. They could write a group letter to the board, expressing concern about potential damage to the building, backed up by a report from an engineer or architect. They could also call for a special meeting to confront the board.
But maybe it’s best to accept the fact that the horse is already out of the barn. “You have to live with your fellow shareholders, and need to pick and choose your battles,” Bart advises. “While you may not like the project, perhaps you should move on and save your ammunition for a fight you can win.”
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