New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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It seemed routine. A prospective buyer wanted to know what sort of building he was considering buying into, and what better place to find that out than in the co-op board minutes? Consequently, he sent in an attorney to read them. At another building, he sent a paralegal; somewhere else, a broker.

It was a cloak-and-dagger operation that within the last eight months saw board minutes copied without authorization by a company purportedly representing a buyer. It call came to light when a major New York City property-management firm discovered this buyer's representative, without authorization, feeding full sets of minutes into a portable scanner.
 
Why? One theory is that it could have been to create a library of minutes from a group of buildings. That way a company could advertise itself to prospective buyers as being the only one with the "inside scoop."

May 14, 2010 — A shareholder or a unit-owner has requested a copy of your co-op / condo board's meeting minutes prior to the minutes' formal approval. Do co-op / condo owners have a right to these unapproved minutes?

The answer isn't as cut-and-dried as you may think, cautions Matt Humphrey, president of HOAleader.com, an organization devoted to what its tagline calls "practical advice for condominium and homeowners associations" and co-op boards. The question brings together several difficult issues, including who's entitled to see minutes when and what should — and definitely shouldn't — be in meeting minutes.

New Board Members' Common Rookie Mistakes and How to Avoid them

Written by Amelia J. Adair on November 09, 2012

New York City

Many articles talk about how to handle the tough stuff that may come up during co-op or condo board meetings. But sometimes it's the easy stuff that can trip you up. Here's a handy list of  "rookie mistakes" — oversights that new or inexperienced condo / co-op board presidents or committee meeting chairs often make.  Keep this with you and you’ll be more confident and professional while you preside over your first meetings.

A large cooperative development with multiple buildings and a no-pet policy found itself with many shareholders who had acquired pets. Given the size of the development and the fact that it contained a significant number of rent-stabilized tenants who were entitled to harbor pets, the board and management had difficulty in determining, even when a resident was observed walking a pet, whether the pet was permitted.

We represented a co-op board for which illegal sublets were becoming an increasing problem. The proprietary lease for this cooperative corporation stated that all sublets must be made only with board approval. The cooperative was fairly large, and some shareholders were subletting without board approval and without even notifying the board. The board decided it was time to take some action.

Every once in a while, an apartment owner reports that he or she has heard that, because his or her apartment is in a building that is located within a registered historic district, the owners of apartments there have an opportunity to obtain a really big income-tax deduction without any appreciable cost. The thing to do, they say they were told, is to "donate" a "façade easement." What they want to know, of course, is whether it works. And, oh, yes, they also want to know just what is involved in making such a "donation."

A board member wished to borrow a portion of the reserve fund for a personal business transaction. He agreed to (a) pay seven percent interest on the money, (b) repay the money within 30 days of a demand by the board, (c) execute an assignment of rental income from a rental property he owned, (d) execute a confession of judgment for the full amount of the loan, and (e) repay the loan in full and any accrued interest within 90 days. The board member’s transaction closed and the money was repaid to the association. Everything went off without a hitch — and then the firestorm ensued.

Nov. 2, 2012 —  It was the "the perfect storm," "the storm of the century," or just Hurricane Sandy. And after the powerful storm struck New York City on Monday, more than 3.75 million people were hit by power failures from the hurricane, which even before it made landfall buffeted the region with savage winds, storm surges and torrential rain.

Numerous condominium associations that our law firm represents have experienced difficulty in collecting past-due common charges from a significant number of condo unit-owners. Even after a condo board has sued the defaulting owner and secured a personal judgment, obtained discovery regarding the location and extent of the owner’s assets through subpoenas and depositions, and conducted searches for bank accounts / jobs / motor vehicles, many owners do not appear to possess any personal assets that the board can ask the county sheriff to attach in an effort to satisfy its judgment.

With no apparent personal assets that the board can ask the county sheriff to attach, the delinquent unit-owner continues to reside in the unit, the arrears keep growing, the lender's foreclosure action is years away from conclusion and the other hard-working unit-owners in the association are saddled with making up the deficit. What can a co-op board do to collect on its judgment when the unit-owner has no personal assets?

Ever since New York City largely dodged the bullet of Hurricane Irene last summer, people have been wondering whether the realities of global warming and climate change are going to turn these rare and extreme weather events into "the new normal" for our area. Well, with the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy this week, those questions are only intensifying.

It's clear that the high winds from the storm and the resulting surge of water that breached seawalls all over the Northeast overwhelmed us — from individual buildings to large government agencies, everyone was powerless to stop the devastation. In the coming days, the communities affected by the storm will have their hands full just getting things back to normal. But when that arduous job is done, it's time for co-op and condo boards to take the long view and do everything they can to be prepared for the next emergency.

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