A month after buying into a co-op in Kensington, Brooklyn, a woman had an unnerving encounter with the super. While she was retrieving a package, he grabbed her in a bearhug and growled. Days later, when the super was in her apartment making repairs, he embraced her again, kissing her above her bosom. The woman wrote the board and the managing agent a letter. They responded, saying that she should not speak with the super “until investigations are complete.” That was a year ago. When a plumbing problem arose, the board told the woman to hire a licensed plumber at her own expense. What can this woman do?
The Ask Real Estate column in the New York Times replies that this amorous super’s behavior may be considered housing discrimination under New York City’s Human Rights Law because the super and the co-op board are creating a hostile living environment, according to the city Commission on Human Rights.
Every co-op board has a duty to discipline its employees, to treat its shareholders equally, and to comply with the lease and the law. This board is certainly neglecting its duties. It is also discriminating against the shareholder, denying her rights, and likely violating the lease, as well as the warranty of habitability, according to Ian Brandt, a partner in the law firm Wagner Berkow. “These are pretty plain human rights violations,” he says.
So what should the shareholder do? Bill the board for any repair costs incurred, as these expenses should be shouldered by the co-op. Install cameras in the apartment to capture evidence that you can give to the police should the super repeat his earlier behavior. Hire a lawyer to write a letter to the co-op board, the co-op’s lawyer and the managing agent, insisting that it appropriately discipline the super.
If the letter does not resolve the situation immediately, file a complaint with the New York City Commission on Human Rights, 718-722-3131, or 311. That will surely get the board’s attention.
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