Q: The apartment above our co-op unit has been vacant since the shareholder died. The family was at the apartment recently and used the toilet, which leaked into our unit, damaging our bathroom. Our insurance covered the damages, minus our $500 deductible. We would like to recoup the deductible, but our co-op board won’t tell us who owns the apartment now, or if they have insurance. Can we compel management to check on the apartment and share information about who now owns the unit?
A: You have a right to know who owns the apartment above yours, replies the Ask Real Estate column in The New York Times. Ask the managing agent for the owner’s contact information. If he refuses, remind him that state laws require co-op corporations to maintain a list of all shareholders and their mailing addresses, and to provide that information to other shareholders. (You may have to sign a confidentiality agreement, attesting that you will not use the information for telemarketing or any other business purposes.)
“If you’re using that kind of contact information for legitimate purposes, you are entitled to it,” says Ingrid Manevitz, a partner at the law firm Seyfarth Shaw.
Contact the apartment’s owner to try to recoup the $500 deductible. Also, demand that the owner and the board assure you that the underlying problem that caused the leak has been resolved. Otherwise, it could happen again. A vacant apartment is vulnerable to serious maintenance problems that could affect you and the entire building — a radiator could leak, there could be an infestation of roaches or mice. Someone needs to be responsible for it.
Most co-ops have rules that give the management the right to enter an apartment for inspection and repair of violations, and to address other issues and respond to emergencies. The board needs to exercise its authority. Demand that the owners regularly check on the apartment, or have the super do it on their behalf.
“Go to the manager and say, ‘Look, I already had this one instance. I don’t want this to happen again,’” Manevitz suggests.
What you are requesting is not only in your best interests; it's also in the best interests of the building, your fellow shareholders and the owner up the upstairs apartment. The co-op board should respond accordingly.
Co-op and condo board business broken down into bite-sized bits - 2 stories each week. Read now on all digital devices.