New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine July/August 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

A reader asks: How do you deal with a bylaw provision that doesn’t include "life partners"?

The facts in this particular instance are that a co-op shareholder wants to give some of her shares to her life partner. The proprietary lease limits the occupancy of apartments to certain listed family members — not including life partners. The bylaws of the corporation provide that transfer of shares must be for the entire amount of shares —  no partial transfers. Does the bylaw provision violate the shareholder's right of alienation of her shares and is the bylaw provision enforceable?

Virtually all cooperative and condominium buildings in New York City at some point will be required to perform façade work to repair damages, and when such time arises, they must enter into agreements with contractors and other professionals. Here are essential provisions that should be included in agreements with contractors and architects.

The concept has been used in New York City since the 1980s, but shared savings agreements have only recently begun gaining traction with co-op boards and condominium associations as a way to finance green projects. It involves finance companies, energy consultants or contractor / vendors financing your green project with the promise they'll be repaid annually, with interest, through the subsequent energy savings. So when and why would such an arrangement be appropriate for your own building?

You want to do a lighting retrofit in your garage or convert your boiler from oil to gas. Where do you get the money? If your building is the right size, you may want to try a shared-savings agreement.

"For us, it was a no-brainer," says Herbert Freedman, the managing agent of Riverbay Corporation, which runs the 15,000-unit Co-op City complex in The Bronx.

It's a familiar scene: Something happens between board members causing distrust, scrutiny and even rebellion. Yet condominium and co-op board members have an obligation to each other and to their communities to set aside differences and stay focused on community business. Here are some tips for boards to review to make sure your relationships stay intact and your community's interests paramount.

Co-op and condominium boards have many reasons to lay out a five-year capital-improvement plan. Among other things, it helps you budget, it helps eliminate or lessen assessments, and it makes lenders look more favorably upon your building and its residents' apartments when it comes to refinancing. And for condo associations, Fannie Mae — a.k.a. the Federal National Mortgage Association — requires you have a capital plan or put aside 10 percent of the monthly common charges.

Q. I am on the board of a co-op that is a "no pet" building and has been that way since its inception 50 years ago. In the last few years, shareholders have gotten dogs in the building and the board has been having an extremely difficult time enforcing the No Pet Rule. Please explain when a shareholder can keep the pet and when the board should start legal proceedings.

When we think of the challenges of overseeing co-ops and condominium associations, we might think of late payments and aggressive pets. But another challenge has been waiting in the wings:  the aging of America's baby-boomer generation, many of whom are choosing to live out their golden years in their homes. There's even a term for this: NORC — Naturally Occurring Retirement Community. It's a trend presenting condo and co-ops boards with new and unique challenges.

You no longer have the right to live in a no-dog building. People with allergies, people afraid of dogs, people who don’t like dog waste and urine on the sidewalk or loud barking, or even people who’d simply rather live without dogs — sorry, but your rights and preferences are meaningless.

That, at least, is the message co-op and condo boards, attorneys, and others are taking from the plethora of people falsely claiming a disability to avoid pet prohibitions. Not physical disability or psychiatric disability, for which there are specially trained service dogs, but emotional disability — which no one can see, anyone can claim, and for which your friendly family doctor will write a note, no questions asked.

A board needs to maintain good relationships with its co-op shareholders or condominium unit-owners in order to get necessary building work done smoothly and with as little rancor as possible. And for contentious issues, being able to unite residents in order to move forward is a must — as is community harmony simply in terms of quality-of-life. Veteran property managers often find themselves caught between intractable boards and aggrieved residents. Often, it's the board who can and should make the first move to smoothen relations. Two experienced managers tell us how they've helped clients do so.

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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