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In a large co-op we represent, a shareholder purchased a penthouse unit and applied for the board's consent to gut-renovate it. All parties were aware that there were sporadic roof leaks into the unit at that time. The co-op board agreed to make repairs prior to the start of construction. The roof was patched and the unit-owner did the renovation. Then the rains came….

In what seemed to be a routine matter for the condominium board, it hired a mason to perform pointing and repairs on a brick façade. The president signed a contract prepared by the managing agent, who in turn secured the contractor’s signature. A deposit was paid to the contractor, and he began work.

Problems began shortly after the start of the project when homeowners complained that the contractor was not cleaning up at the end of the work day and that the sidewalks and walkways were filled with trip hazards. In addition, work progressed at a far slower pace than anticipated; some days the work crew was a single person.

Money is tight. Lawyers are expensive. Can you cut costs without cutting essential services? That's the question condo and co-op boards may be asking as they face the beginning of a new fiscal year. Many boards regard legal charges as a big cost that must be reduced. Yet is such cutting wise?

When superstorm Sandy struck in October, she left co-op and condo buildings scrambling for light, water and heat. Damage control was key, solutions slow. Yet many building managers and condo / co-op boards found creative ways to meet challenges. Here are just two, centering on the critical issues of water and electricity in the aftermath of a disaster.

A 40-year-old cooperative had a 10 percent sublease fee in place for over 30 years. One new shareholder, now subleasing to a high-paying tenant, challenged the propriety of the sublease fee in court. Among other things, he claimed that the cooperative could impose a fee of that size only through an amendment to the proprietary lease, but that the lease had never been amended.

There is no way around it: When a building's elevator breaks down, residents complain. But when that elevator needs to be modernized — a capital project that can take an elevator out of commission for several weeks — a temporary inconvenience turns into a major problem. Co-op and condo boards have to invent creative ways to ease the pain. Some solutions cost money, making an already expensive project even more costly. But these particular ones do not.

So, what steps can a board take to reduce the inconvenience during an elevator upgrade?

If your co-op or condo board hasn't given it thought before, superstorm Sandy brought home the point with hurricane-force winds: Buildings need to have an emergency preparedness plan. It's not just about stocking up on flashlights or buying a generator — it's also about going over documents such as insurance policies so that you know what is and isn't covered, and taking steps to avoid not just physical disaster but financial disaster. Here are three overview steps that condo and co-op boards should consider above and beyond laying in supplies.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Affects Your Building's Retail Spaces

Written by Steven D. Sladkus, Jeffrey M. Schwartz & Jeffrey S. Reich on December 06, 2012

New York City

One cooperative association that we represent owns commercial space on the ground floor of its building, and fell victim to a serial lawsuit brought under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Title III of the ADA allows disabled individuals to file lawsuits against co-ops and condominiums, forcing them to alter entrances to their storefronts to make them handicapped-accessible. Though monetary damages are not available under Title III, prevailing plaintiffs are entitled to recover their attorneys' fees. In recent years, a small group of ADA lawyers has capitalized on this by teaming up with a serial ADA plaintiff (one who is unquestionably disabled) and commencing hundreds of lawsuits based on technical or very minor ADA violations.

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

Written by Amelia J. Adair on December 07, 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.

Each loan officer evaluates potential borrowers in his or her own way, giving more or less weight to individual parameters. And each lender has a loan appetite that's slightly different from that of its competitors. While these differences tend to be subtle, they can, at times, result in varied loan terms. One very important factor: your building's ownership profile.

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