New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

Co-ops and condos, which fall into the "Class 2" designation of the New York City tax code, were hit with a whopping a 13.353 percent tax rate for the first half of fiscal year 2011-2012 and a 13.513 percent for the second half.

What makes your taxes go up appreciably, of course, is not a boost in the tax rate, but rather your building's assessment. Eric Weiss, a tax certiorari attorney and a partner at Tuchman, Korngold, Weiss, Lippman & Gelles, says it is almost impossible to predict how much your building's assessment will rise. 

A monthly column by HABITAT's editorial director.

"Communication and cooperation always help avoid problems," attorney Stuart Saft, a partner at Holland & Knight, once said to me. Not everyone believes that.

I recently recalled an incident that occurred at my 22-unit cooperative some years ago. The sponsor held a long-term lease on a laundromat on the ground floor. It was a dirty and rundown space run by a jovial but rarely seen manager named Carlos. You saw more of his mother, a short, heavily wrinkled woman with squinty eyes and a screechy voice. She didn't speak, she SHOUTED, all in broken English, as she threw slabs of raw meat to a half-blind German shepherd that lay on the store's floor all day. In those pre-laundry card days, you'd need quarters, but she rarely had change. In addition, half of the machines seemed to be permanently out of order.

Board Service: Finding an $89K Water Credit — And Then Actually Getting It

Written by Joni Peltz, Board President, Hilltop Village Cooperative No. 3. One in an occasional series of real-life stories by board members about serving on co-op and condo boards. on June 12, 2012

Hilltop Village Cooperative, Hollis, Queens

As a child in 1955, I moved into Hilltop Village Cooperative No. 3 — two seven-story buildings, with 100 units per building, in Hollis, Queens.

It's 57 years later, and I have now spent the last six years as board president. Hard to believe, yet true!

A reader writes: A shareholder in our co-op has moved out and now has a subtenant who went through all the proper co-op channels. Now this subtenant wants to bring in an unrelated roommate. Can the board require this new person to apply like the original subtenant, or is the original subtenant covered under the applicable New York City law?

 

New York State adopted the colloquially titled Roommate Law — formally, New York Real Property Law, Section 235f, "Unlawful Restrictions on Occupancy") in 1983 in part to deal with widespread controversies regarding subleasing. Early on, the courts decided that the Roommate Law applies to co-ops, which operate under a proprietary lease.

Condo and co-op management is about more than property: It is also about people.

Lawyer and author Adam Leitman Bailey, the principal at his eponymous firm, believes that buildings should have physicals — especially newly constructed condominiums. Otherwise, people buying into such a building and those new condo boards running it may not know how healthy or unhealthy the condo is. He has handled hundreds of such cases.

"If your equipment is really old, replacing your cables and other mechanical stuff can costs $20,000 to $30,000," observes explains Ken Breglio, president of the maintenance firm BP Elevator, "and yet the elevator will run the same, because fixing safety issues doesn't enhance the ride. Why? Because the controls are old."

And co-op / condo boards and residents don't always get that. Compounding that communication issue is the fact that the city's revised elevator regulations don't have grandfather provision for existing elevators — elevators that complied perfectly well with the law at the time they were installed.

These mandated upgrades are technically repair or maintenance issues, notes Gerard J. Picaso, president of Gerard J.Picaso Inc., a management firm. That means, for instance, that when an inspector says some newly mandated component has to be installed in what's been a perfectly safe, working elevator, the building's elevator-company contract doesn't cover that improvement.

In 1964, Governor Nelson Rockefeller enacted the New York State's Condominium Act, and the rest of the U.S. followed. But since then, the other states and even Puerto Rico have modernized their laws. Twenty-five states even use the Uniform Condominium Act and others the Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act, while New York has remained loyal to a law that is inadequate.

The standard co-op proprietary lease provides that co-op staff shall have access to make emergency repairs "at any time and without notice"; can use the apartment's keys to do so; and can break in if the keys are not available or if they do not work. Condominium governing documents generally have similar provisions. An apartment owner should not be able to undermine the co-op board or condo association's ability to so act by leaving a dangerous dog free to attack staff as they enter.

A new city law requires all residential owners to regularly replace their carbon monoxide alarms, and the first deadline for doing so is approaching in October. Boards, co-op shareholders, and condo unit-owners should make sure they understand the new law and know when alarms need to be replaced in their units.

Installation. Passed in December and effective as of April 25, Local Law 75 of 2011 requires building owners to provide their tenants with carbon monoxide alarms. The law amends a 2004 law that initially required owners to install these alarms by November of that year.

Replacement. The new law also adds a provision that existing carbon monoxide alarms must be replaced at the end of their useful lives (as defined by the manufacturer), or by October of this year, whichever is later. With the lifespans of these devices averaging five years, depending on the type, many buildings that had them installed back in 2004 will be due for a replacement this fall.

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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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