Where Does the Buck Stop In a Co-op?

New York City

Where the Buck Stops
May 18, 2017

One good turn deserves another. Yesterday we told you about the pitfalls of failing to review the offering plan before buying an apartment – specifically, a condo buyer who has sued to recover a $1 million deposit because the walls were not as tall as promised and were inadequate for hanging her outsize art collection. Today we remind you of the importance of reviewing the proprietary lease before buying a co-op apartment.

Where, exactly, does the buck stop when something goes wrong inside a building?

“Generally, the proprietary lease provides that repairs inside the four walls of the apartment are the responsibility of the owner – holes in the walls, pipes that come out of the walls from the sink, electrical outlets, holes in the floors, kitchen cabinets," attorney Kevin McConnell of Himmelstein, McConnell, Gribben, Donoghue & Joseph tells Brick Underground. Here’s where the proprietary lease comes in. If the repair in question might be caused by a problem with a building-wide system, such as faulty electrical wiring or plumbing, says McConnell, you'll want to check your proprietary lease and contact the managing agent before moving forward.

Most standard proprietary leases should include sections detailing which repairs are the board’s responsibility and which are the shareholder’s, adds attorney Jeffrey Reich, a partner at Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas. "Usually, the co-op is obligated to maintain the building and the central building systems (plumbing, electrical, HVAC) and the shareholder is obligated to maintain the interior of the apartment and all systems which exclusively service the apartment," says Reich. "However, there are variations (one of which is responsibility for apartment windows), so a purchaser should review the terms of a building's proprietary lease before purchasing an apartment."

One last thing: before buying into a co-op, show the proprietary least to your insurance broker to make sure you’re adequately covered.

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