New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine June 2020 free digital issue

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

A New York City Department of Finance letter erroneously informing co-op and condo owners they are ineligible for the renewed tax abatement has caused consternation and confusion. The letter, meant to be directed only to non-resident owners of co-op and apartments, instead included what one source calls tens of thousands of eligible residents.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Feb. 1 officially renewed the belated the co-op / condo tax abatement that residential cooperatives and condominiums have relied on since 1997 to help equalize the tax burden between them and single-family homes. Yay. In the hoopla, however, a little-notice April 1 deadline might get missed. That's the due date to submit the application form for any new co-op and condo development filing for the abatement for the first time. And an additional caution: That fast-closing window is for not only for the current tax year but for the upcoming one as well.

Can condo and co-op boards and managers be too cost-conscious? This inquiry came to mind when Habitat received an e-mail from board member Regina Warren, who was questioning a financial arrangement her building had with an attorney. Was it an expense the board needed to incur? Specifically, were the fees paid to tax certiorari lawyers who annually challenge a building's tax assessment a necessary expense? And were they fair?

 

In a major shift welcomed by co-ops and condos battered by superstorm Sandy, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will now allow residential cooperatives and condominium associations to use disaster-relief funds to repair buildings' physical plants. Previously, condo and co-op boards were ineligible for grants but could obtain low-interest repair loans from the Small Business Administration.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the first to announce this afternoon that Governor Andrew Cuomo had signed into law the co-op / condo tax-abatement legislation and J-51 updating that the State Senate passed Monday following House passage last week.

I served for 25 years as the president of my co-op board (and hope to serve on the board again, perhaps). We are a 20-story, 339-unit cooperative building located in the Riverdale section of The Bronx, with a diverse cross-section of people. In my quarter-decade of service I learned many things, but one of the most important was to be flexible. What do I mean by that? Rules are important. Generally speaking, they must be enforced. But wise condo and co-op boards can and should know when to make exceptions. Over the years as president, I learned when to do that.

As someone who actively litigates collections and lien foreclosures on behalf of community associations, I can offer some lessons that may be of benefit to condominium boards, which historically have a hard time colleting from homeowners in arrears on their monthly charges.

For a building with more than one elevator, urge residents to stagger their commute schedule so the only operating elevator isn't overloaded at 8 A.M. Residents should also avoid renovations or work like carpet cleaning during the upgrade. Some boards go so far as to restrict renovations entirely during an elevator repair project.

Every co-op and condo board dreads telling homeowners that elevator replacement or repair is upcoming. In buildings with just one elevator the weeks or even months of hard climbing and inconvenience is especially difficult, but it's hard even for co-ops and condos with multiple elevators, what with all the noise, clutter, workers and longer wait times. Earlier articles in this series have looked at how condo and co-op boards can help ease the burden, and how residents themselves can help. Our final suggestion: Smart scheduling of elevator use, spreading peak-time loads around. How is that even possible? Like this.

The co-op admissions process seems like it should be a straightforward affair: The seller gives the admission package to the buyer, the buyer completes it, management vets it, and the board reviews it and then says "yea" or "nay." Yet even the simplest procedure can become complicated where co-op boards are concerned. (Condo admissions are another story, since condo boards have little power to reject new buyers, short of buying the unit for the association.) That's why boards may want to follow a schedule.

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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