New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Can Shareholders Vote to Lower the Co-op’s Thermostat?

East Village, Manhattan

Overheated Apartments
Nov. 26, 2019

Many New York City apartments, especially in older buildings, are notoriously overheated during cold-weather months. The sight of open windows and blasting air-conditioners in mid-January is not uncommon. Let’s not talk about the wasted money or the pointless damage to the environment

One culprit, aside from antiquated heating systems and badly designed buildings, is a well-intentioned city law passed in 2017. During heating season, which runs from October 1 through May 31, daytime indoor temperatures must be at least 68 degrees if the outdoor temperature falls below 55 degrees. From 10 P.M. to 6 A.M., indoor temperatures must now be at least 62 degrees (up from 55 degrees), regardless of the outdoor temperature. 

Shareholders in a small East Village co-op started complaining of overheated apartments after management reset the thermostat on the boiler to comply with the new law. Fuel costs in this low-income co-op are already $10,000 over budget. Though shareholders agreed unanimously at their last annual meeting that their apartments are too hot, they balked at lowering the thermostat setting for fear of breaking the law. Can co-op or condo residents vote to set the heat at a mutually agreeable temperature if it is below the legal limit? 

“I have a fundamental belief in the ‘home rule’ process,” Dean Roberts, a member in the law firm Norris McLaughlin, tells the Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times. “If there’s a unanimous agreement by the shareholders, then they can do this. No harm, no foul.” 

Roberts suggests the co-op hold another shareholder meeting to get a consensus. If shareholders unanimously agree to a cooler temperature, the board can lower the thermostat. At the meeting, the board should explain that if anyone wakes up in the middle of the night feeling cold, they should contact the board and management rather than file a complaint to 311 – which could result in fines to the co-op. Even if those residents agreed to the change in rules, management will need to make adjustments to the temperature on their behalf to comply with the law.

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