New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

An Architect and an Engineer Reveal: How Effective is Infrared Thermography?

Written by Stephen Varone, AIA & Peter Varsalona, PE on September 11, 2012

New York City

You don't have to tear up your co-op or condominium's walls or floors to detect such typical building problems as water penetration, plumbing blockages, overloaded electrical circuits or structural defects. Instead, co-op and condo boards can turn to infrared thermography, a diagnostic tool used by building staffs and outside professionals, which uses heat radiation to, essentially, see through walls.

In Graber vs. Sheridan, the apartment-owner petitioners sent a letter to the board of managers of Imperial Towers Condominium on Staten Island in February 2006, requesting an independent audit of the condominium. After months of discussion over the exact breadth and scope of documents to be provided, the audit was held on June 21, 2006. As a result of the board's alleged failure to provide all requested documentation, the audit was unable to be completed.

In March 2007, the petitioners began an action against the board members seeking an order to require full disclosure of all requested documents. The board members contended they had provided the apartment owners with all reasonable and available documents as required by law.

Roughly 80 percent of the reduced-tax offers that the New York City Tax Commission makes each year get accepted, "for many reasons," says commission president Glenn Newman. "Sometimes," he says forthrightly, "the taxpayer just wants to get quick relief: We finish [our reviews] within the year, but court proceedings can take five years or more."

The commission has its own many reasons for making these reduced-tax offers, since, as it puts it in its annual report, "A fair and efficient review process is essential to reducing costly litigation of assessment disputes … that might be further contested [in court], costing additional time and resources for taxpayers and the city."

With co-op boards and condo associations constantly on the lookout for money savings and energy conservation — which often amount to the same thing — many boards are wondering if they should install a relatively new technology known as "tankless" water heaters. What are they, and do they really provide energy savings?

Tankless water heaters work by heating water with either a gas burner or an electric element, and delivering water as a constant supply. Heat loss is effectively avoided because of the instantaneous nature of the system. But here comes problem No. 1: The flow rate of hot water can decrease as demand increases.

Indeed, tankless water heaters — which are being marketed to smaller co-ops and condos in addition to their primary user, owners of single-family homes — seem at first glance to be a big plus: They are, on average, 24 to 34 percent more efficient than traditional heaters. They require less energy and last twice as long as their more conventional counterparts. They can also run on electricity, gas, propane, or solar power.

How to Set a Practical and Fair Co-op Sublet or Condo Leasing Policy

Written by Tom Soter and Ruth Ford on August 07, 2012

New York City

Some co-op / condo boards are dead set against allowing subletting / leasing (and for simplicity's sake, we'll just use the verb "sublet" going forward). One factor is the "transients" issue. Many contend that a renter doesn't care as much as an owner because he or she doesn't have as much invested (both financially and emotionally) in the property. But there are other issues as well that have to be considered when creating a policy.

Looking to lower the cost of electricity? Create your own! You've heard of co-ops, condos and other types of buildings and communities doing it via technologies like solar or wind power. But there's a lesser-known alternative: Cogeneration, also known as combined heat and power (CHP). It's a natural-gas-fueled method of generating electricity for the building and creating heat that can be used to power the air-conditioning system, heat the domestic water, and heat the building in winter.

Sewer-Pipe Primer: Two Engineers Explain When to Repair or to Replace

Written by Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona on August 07, 2012

New York City

Sewage backups, which can occur primarily in your co-op or condo's basement, pose health risks caused by contamination from harmful bacteria and mold. A blocked or broken sewer line is the obvious culprit. Here's what you need to know about your co-op's or your condo's sewer lines so that you can make an informed choice as to when and how to repair or replace them.

If your condo or co-op board is in a fog about FOG, then read on —  and save yourself some headaches down the road.

FOG is the acronym used by the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for describing the ingredients that are part of a common problem: fats, oil and grease. The difficulty arises when cooks deposit any (or all) of those in their kitchen drains: With more than 22,000 food service establishments serving over eight million New Yorkers, food remnants invariably get flushed into the sewers. Both restaurants and households discharge wastewater containing fats, oil, and grease into more than 7,400 miles of New York City public sewers.

"Real estate taxes have suddenly become the highest line item in a co-op's budget, and that being the case, boards should understand the [appeals] process," says attorney Eric Weiss, a tax specialist and partner at Tuchman Korngold Weiss Lippman & Gelles. "And they should be able to participate in the process if they feel that's important. I think it is important, from a budgetary standpoint."

It's not just a tax attorney saying that. Bob Friedrich, board president of the 110-building, 10,000-resident Glen Oaks Village co-op in Queens, agrees. "I think it's very important that all co-ops understand why they must appeal the valuations assessed against their properties," he says. This is also true of condo boards, which file appeals on behalf of the individually taxed apartment-owners, and for the condominium association's property taxes.

 

Many small co-op and condo buildings are hiring solely "back-office only" (BOO) services, performed either by a managing agent or an outside firm. The upside is that the building can get crucial financial work done and pay far less than it would pay for full management. The downside is that condo and co-op boards sometimes don't get what they expected or expected more than was promised.

Back-office services are typically the simple financial transactions required to keep a building afloat: collecting maintenance, paying bills and providing the board with a monthly record of the funds that come in and go out. Most BOO managing agents will perform additional services for a fee.

Ask the Experts

learn more

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

Source Guide

see the guide

Looking for a vendor?