The return of construction crews to the interiors of co-op and condo buildings during the city’s phased reopening has led to some high anxiety. Shareholders in a large Manhattan co-op are wondering how they can be certain workers aren’t bringing COVID-19 into the building. And they ask: “Does our co-op really have to allow all this work to happen again?”
The Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times replies: Co-ops and condos that allow residential construction projects to resume are bound by state and city guidelines – meaning workers must practice social distancing, wear masks and be screened upon entering the building. But boards have the power to enact stricter rules than those the state and city mandate, and many boards are choosing to do so. Some co-ops and condos aren’t moving forward with any new projects, only allowing ones that were halted during the shutdown to resume. Others are limiting the size and scope of projects. A few are still refusing to allow unfinished projects to resume.
If residents are concerned about which protections are in place, they should ask the managing agent to explain the board’s renovation guidelines. Some questions worth asking: How will the staff keep common areas clean? What is the procedure for screening workers? How will the board enforce the rules if a resident or contractor violates them? Some buildings are charging owners daily or weekly cleaning fees, according to Ingrid Manevitz, a partner at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw, and some boards have enacted policies giving themselves the authority to fine shareholders or even halt construction for rule-breaking.
Mark Hoffman, president of Hoffman Management, tells Habitat that his company has devised a shield that leaves little to chance. “We prepared a special COVID-19 addendum to the alteration agreement that needs to be executed by the shareholder and contractor prior to commencement of the project,” Hoffman says. “It outlines that they're required to follow all the safety and social distancing protocols, and it provides protection to the co-op to stop any job at any time. The boards pretty much have unilateral control over the entire process. If there are any issues or problems, the job gets shut down and can't restart until the board says so.”
If residents see ongoing problems and the board is unresponsive, they can contact the city by calling 311 and request that a building inspector visit the work site. “We take this matter very seriously, which is why we have dedicated additional inspectors to respond to these specific complaints,” says Lisa Wood, deputy press secretary for the Department of Buildings, adding that inspectors are visiting every construction site in the city.
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