Q: At our large co-op in the West Village, the property manager shut off the central air conditioning on 22 days during the past summer. Then it was shut off for good in early September because of damage to the cooling equipment — though it was still extremely hot and humid. Is there a way to hire a new management company?
A: Is the co-op’s management company aware of the problem, and is it being addressed? If not, the co-op’s board of directors should respond to complaints from the shareholders and take action, says the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times.
“There needs to be transparency on the part of the co-op board and the managing agent as to why there was spotty service throughout the summer,” says Debra Guzov, a real estate lawyer in Manhattan. “If there is a problem, the board has a duty to the shareholders to address that problem.”
The management company is hired by the co-op’s board of directors and typically assigns a managing agent, also known as a property manager, to carry out the co-op’s business at the direction of the board. Your managing agent should bring in an engineer or reputable heating-and-cooling company to inspect the air-conditioning equipment and identify the problem, then recommend a fix to the board.
Meanwhile, you should take a look at the co-op’s proprietary lease, bylaws and house rules, to see if there are any dates listed for when shareholders should expect the air-conditioning to be active. This information can strengthen your approach to the board.
If the board is dissatisfied with the managing agent, it can request a different one for the building or even terminate the management company’s contract and hire another company. “Finding the right property manager is always a challenge,” says Ronald Gitter, a real estate lawyer who focuses on co-ops and condominiums. “If a service provider is not doing its job properly, it never gets any better.”
But Guzov adds that the managing agent might not be the problem. Money might be the problem. It’s possible that the building doesn’t have enough of it to investigate the problem with the air conditioning and make the necessary repairs. “Ultimately," she says, "a lot of these issues do relate to maintenance, and there are budgetary concerns.” And that's not the property manager's responsibility. That's the co-op board's responsibility.
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