A co-op board has instituted a new air-conditioner rule: Once a window unit is installed, shareholders are not allowed to remove it at the end of the season. Shareholders who don’t comply will face penalties. When asked to explain the policy, the board president said, “It’s a New York City law, and if we get a fine from the city, we’re going to fine you.” Do co-op boards have the power to make such a rule a then fine violators?
The city does not have rules about how many months of the year your air-conditioner has to be in the window, or how frequently you can take yours in and out, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. But it does have rules about how they should be installed, and building owners are required to keep their buildings, including the facades, in safe condition. Anything attached to the outside, like a window unit, would be subject to that rule.
So your board president might be referring to facade safety rules. A Department of Buildings inspector could issue a violation for an improperly installed air-conditioner. One of the most common offenses: propping up the unit on wooden blocks or bricks, which can come loose and fall to the street below.
If you install your window unit poorly and the co-op gets a fine, it could pass that fine onto you, says Ingrid C. Manevitz, a partner at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw. The building may be concerned that if window units come in and out every year, there’s a greater chance of faulty installation. A board is entitled to make rules intended to protect the safety of people on the street.
However, it’s unusual that the board would require you to keep units in the windows year-round. Winters are cold, and a drafty window isn’t good for energy efficiency. Many boards come up with more flexible solutions, like requiring residents to have units professionally installed, or hire building staff to do it.
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