The board at a small, white-glove Upper East Side co-op recently refurbished the common area in the back yard and purchased outdoor furniture. New rules permit the children of shareholders who are 16 and older to sit in the yard during appropriate hours and enjoy the garden in a quiet manner. Younger children of shareholders are prohibited from ever setting foot in the yard. Seems a touch draconian. Can co-op boards treat residents differently this way?
Certainly, co-op rules cannot discriminate against any shareholder and must treat all shareholders equally, replies the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. But boards also have to protect the building and the shareholders. The building’s insurance policy might impose limitations on where small children can roam and play. Added to that, the board needs to weigh the needs of all the shareholders in making decisions. Quiet enjoyment of their homes is a universal need.
Children tend to use outdoor space in a different – that is, noisier – way than adults do. They are also more likely to fall and injure themselves, which is why children are often prohibited from using amenities like gyms, hot tubs, pools and rooftop decks. “No building wants the responsibility or liability of having young children, or anyone for that matter, be injured,” says attorney Lisa Smith, a partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell.
If there are a lot of young families in the building, the board might consider carving out a safe and reasonable play space in a common area for the youngest residents, or, if possible, open the space in the refurbished back yard to supervised children at specific hours.
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