A co-op in the pricey Gramercy Park neighborhood in Manhattan is very chill — in the wrong way. Shareholders complain that there has been no heat after 10 p.m. this year. That the heat comes on late in the morning. That windows are drafty — but the shareholders voted down building-wide window replacements, and the co-op board has decreed that shareholders cannot pay to replace their own windows. What can shareholders do to turn this building from chill to cozy?
First, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times, understand the law. New York City law requires building owners, including co-op and condo boards, to provide heat between Oct. 1 and May 31. If the outside temperature falls below 55 degrees between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., the inside temperature must be at least 68 degrees. Between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., the inside temperature must be at least 62 degrees, regardless of the outdoor temperature.
In the case of a co-op or condo, the board is responsible for ensuring that the apartments have adequate heat to meet the city’s requirements, says Stuart Saft, a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight and chairman of the board of directors a the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums.
Shareholders or unit-owners in building's with inadequate heat can start by bringing this up with the board, and telling the members that the temperature in your apartment is in violation of city law. If that doesn’t work, you can seek legal assistance regarding the best course of action, such as having your maintenance payments held in escrow until the issue is resolved, or complaining to the city, Saft says.
If you call 311 to make a complaint, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development could issue violations. The violations might incentivize the board to act quickly and make sure all shareholders have heat. But they could also cost the building — that is, the shareholders — money.
As for replacing your own windows, check the proprietary lease to see if there is more guidance. A co-op building near Gramercy Park might have landmark status, meaning the Landmarks Preservation Committee would have to approve new windows that are visible from the street. Try to have another conversation with the board to learn why there’s a problem with allowing shareholders to replace their own windows.
It's possible the board is operating in good faith, so adopting an aggressive attitude might be both unnecessary and unwise. Remember, winter doesn't officially begin for another four weeks, so it might be best to keep a cool head during the long heating season. “Work in a neighborly way to try to have this addressed,” advises Steven Sladkus, a partner at the law firm Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. “Not everything needs contentiousness to get something done.”
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