New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Court Curbs Condo Board's Power on Repair Mandates

Bronxville, Westchester County

Co-op and condo boards, envelope repairs, fiduciary duties, common areas.

The board's plan to replace all windows at Meadow Court Condominium was blocked by the courts.

June 7, 2024

Co-op and condo boards have a duty to maintain their building's envelope, but a recent court case illustrates that there are limits to a board's power when it comes to mandating these vital repairs and upgrades.

The case, known as Mangold v. Board of Managers of Meadow Court Condominium, was highlighted in a recent newsletter from the law firm Moritt Hock & Hamroff. The board at this six-story building in the Westchester County town of Bronxville determined that the building’s 100-year-old windows needed to be replaced, and the board arranged for a contractor to do so at bulk rates, with each unit-owner responsible for the share expenses to their window replacements. Unit-owners could opt out of this program, but they were given an outside date by which to replace their windows at their own expense.

Was this a simple case of a board performing a fundamental duty? Or was it a case of overreach?  

The decision to implement a building-wide window replacement project was supported by each and every one of the condominium’s unit-owners – except for the plaintiffs, who filed suit to invalidate the policy.

The court agreed with the lone disgruntled unit-owner because the condominium's declaration made it clear that the windows are part of individual apartments units — and are not common elements. Therefore, even though the board had the backing of the majority of unit-owners, it had no more authority to force the plaintiffs to replace their windows than it would have had to decree which curtains and blinds the plaintiffs could install inside their apartment.

It should be noted that in this case there was nothing in the record indicating an immediate or material issue with the windows, nor was there an order from the local building department requiring the upgrade. These were preventive window replacements designed to avoid potential problems in the future. One could easily imagine a different ruling from the court if the building was beset with chronic leaks or mold. 

Lesson learned: If a condominium's governing documents do not tive the board the express right to maintain the entire building envelope, including the windows, then the Mangold decision asserts that unit-owners are the sole arbiters of how and when to replace their own windows.

The Meadow Court condo board has appealed the court's decision.

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