New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




In Co-ops and Condos, House Rules Overrule City and State

New York City

COVID-19, house rules, guest screening, nonessential services, co-op and condo boards.

Requiring guests to fill out a questionnaire is within a board's powers.

June 29, 2020

Even as New York City enters the second week of Phase Two in its reopening process, a Manhattan co-op board is requiring all guests to fill out a form providing their name and address, then answer personal questions about the reason for their visit, the state of their health, and even the mode of transport they used to get to the building. Housekeepers, dog walkers and nannies are still not allowed to come into the building. Are boards allowed to be this invasive and restrictive? 

The short answer is yes, says the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. The state’s guidelines set minimum requirements for buildings, adding that owners are “free to provide additional precautions or increased restrictions.” The guidelines require buildings to screen all visitors with a questionnaire that asks about COVID-19 exposure. So this Manhattan co-op’s guest-screening protocol sounds like one that is in line with current rules, even if it may seem prying.

Both the state and the Real Estate Board of New York recommend restricting nonessential visitors. Since the recommendations do not clarify whether dog walkers, housekeepers or nannies are essential, co-op and condo boards have wide latitude there.

“Yes, things are beginning to open up, but we’re living under certain restrictions,” says Phyllis Weisberg, a partner at the law firm Armstrong Teasdale. “I’ve been speaking with lots of boards, and they’re wrestling with these issues. They’re not black-and-white issues.”

Some buildings have been letting housekeepers in for weeks, while others haven’t loosened their restrictions at all. “In most instances, boards have taken a more conservative approach,” says Dan Wollman, the chief executive of Gumley Haft, a property management company, adding that boards can enact policies that are more stringent than city or state rules.

Co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners can ask their board and managing agent to provide clearer guidance and a better sense of the timeline for loosening restrictions. When do they plan to start letting vendors back in, and under what conditions? Residents should be able to start planning for that future date by informing their service providers of the new protocols. As people return to work in offices and stores, the services of housekeepers, nannies and dog walkers will become increasingly vital.

“Certainly as New York City opens up, you’re going to have people going out and going to work,” Weisberg says, “(and) buildings will be more open to the outside world.”

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