New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

With the spate of mass gun killings over the past year, some condo and co-op boards are expressing heightened concern about weapons in their buildings. Part 1 of this series established that boards may prohibit gun-ownership since the Second Amendment applies only to the government, not privately held corporations. Part 2 examined the issues involved in deciding whether or not to prohibit guns. In this final part, we look at gun questions a co-op board can ask at an admissions interview, and what steps condo boards can take.

Hoarding is a mental illness, and condo and co-op boards need to treat hoarders with the same care and understanding as they would anyone with a mental-health issue. But that doesn't mean you ignore the safety, hygiene and vermin problems that hoarders bring about. Here are some tips.

After the recent mass-murder shootings at Sandy Hook and elsewhere, co-op boards have begun in earnest to consider gun control. Part 1 of this story established that boards may ask about gun ownership during an admissions interview and may prohibit gun-owners from becoming shareholders: The Second Amendment only applies to the government, not privately held corporations. In Part 2 we examine some of the issues faced by co-ops wishing to prohibit guns.

Utter the word "hoarder" to any New York City property manager or co-op / condo board and you're likely to hear the story about the resident who wouldn't stop collecting newspapers, trash or cats.

Dealing with these troubled residents — and make no mistake, we're talking about a mental illness over which they have little if any control; it's not just some eccentricity — can cost a building thousands of dollars in legal and cleaning fees and take years to resolve. The first step to dealing with it is to understand as best as possible the very specific nature of hoarders and hoarding.

The controlling documents of most co-ops and condominium associations outline the requirement for the preparation of your financial statements. In addition, several states have minimum financial statement requirements. It's important for boards to understand that there are different levels to what a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) reports. Here's a primer for condo and co-op board members.

The standard co-op proprietary lease provides: "Any consent to subletting may be subject to such conditions as the Directors... may impose. There shall be no limitation on the right of Directors... to grant or withhold consent, for any reason or for no reason, to a subletting." This means a co-op board can adopt a new sublet policy without shareholder approval. That ranges from limiting sublets to a certain amount of years during a longer span to barring it outright. It also includes imposing sublet fees.

But can a board adopt different sublet rules for existing and new shareholders?

Sure, your doorman probably isn't gossiping about the people you're dating. And sure, that fellow co-op board member who wants you out isn't looking through security-camera footage to prove you're not cleaning up after your dog. And, surely, you as a parent aren't going to ask your board or management to let you see electronic key-fob data and confirm what time your teenager came home.

Except … what's to stop you?

For some small buildings, such as my own 22-unit Manhattan co-op, it may not always be cost-effective or affordable to have a full-time superintendent. In such cases, a part-time super fits the bill. Yet while finding a full-timer is relatively easy, where does a co-op or condo board go to find a part-time super — one who may already be a full-timer somewhere else, or who may be a part-timer at one or two buildings already?

The co-op board was complaining about the superintendent. "He sends us bills for everything he does," said the treasurer. "He paints the hallways, we get a bill. He repairs the burner, we get a bill. He fixes plumbing in the walls, we get a bill. What are we paying him for? Cleaning up the hallways and common areas?"

I listened carefully to the duties enumerated by my colleague on the board and thought, "That's an awful lot of work to do for the pittance we pay him."

New York State's Cooperative and Condominium Tax Abatement Program was enacted in 1998 and renewed regularly in an attempt to equalize property taxes owed by apartment dwellers and house owners. It recently was extended to 2015 with some notable revisions to be phased in. Among them, non-owner-occupied apartments — including those held in trust or by limited liability companies (LLCs) are being excluded from the abatement program. And unfortunately, believe many experts believe the New York City's Department of Finance (DoF) has misidentified many innocent residents as non-owner-occupiers — with financially disruptive, if not downright devastating, results.

Ask the Experts

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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