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The weather is warmer and the street corners are mostly clear of Olympic-size slush pools that made walking around a major drag. Spotted near north Yonkers this week was a small crowd of people around the telltale open house sign. It has begun. And once spring is underway, reports DNAinfo, "buyers should brace for crowded open houses." StreetEasy compiled stats for DNAinfo that found, not surprisingly, that things get quietest in the winter months. Who wants to go out in weather like we had? And, from the seller's point of view, who wants a bunch of people trudging around their apartments in wet snow boots? So if you're looking and you've been underwhelmed by the options, take heart. More people will be putting their homes on the market as the weather improves and spring promises to be a busy season indeed. 

Nearly two months ago, we gave co-op and condo boards a heads up about a public hearing on the proposal to lift the ban on ferrets in New York City before the Board of Health. Had the ban been lifted, board would have had to review their existing pet policies and revise them as needed to reflect where they stand on the great ferret debate. Clear language is everything. But it looks like that won't be necessary, according to Brickunderground.com, which has been on ferret watch "since last summer, when Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration indicated that they'd be up for nixing his predecessor Rudolph Giuliani's ban, enacted in 1999, on these little critters." The Associated Press delivered the bad news to ferret proponents: The Board of Health has said no way. Although "the proposal to nix the ferret ban would have required the animals to be vaccinated for rabies, sterilized and restrained when outdoors," some health board members are still digging their heels and pointing to cases "elsewhere" in which ferrets have bitten children. "I have to say that, at this point, I'm not at all convinced that it wouldn't be a substantial health risk to allow ferret ownership in New York City," board member Dr. Lynn Richardson is quoted as saying.

Ask the Attorney: Reasonable Accommodation for Disabled Residents

Written by Dennis H. Greenstein and John W. Egan on March 11, 2015

New York City

When a resident with a disability requests a "reasonable accommodation," the board has many issues to consider. It has to decide how it should respond, whether cost is an appropriate consideration, what it will communicate to other residents who feel strongly one way or the other, and what it can do to avoid litigation or the involvement of a government agency. It is critical that condo and co-op boards be aware of their legal obligations in responding to these types of requests. 

Steven Vernon, board president of the 111-unit Nagle Apartments in upper Manhattan, says it's hard, sometimes, to make a decision about a potential buyer when you can't ask certain questions. "We've had difficulties with the personal questionnaire in telling how good a neighbor a person will be," he says. "It's [helpful] to ask if someone plays a musical instrument, for example. One applicant was a professional piano player and practiced eight hours a day."

But what can you do? You can't ask if someone is a professional musician, since lawful occupation is — like age, gender, and race — one of the "protected classes" under the New York City Human Rights Law

One of the many nice things of making the transition from renter to shareholder is that you can renovate your apartment to suit your needs. Well, provided you follow the building rules, as established by the board or management company. And provided you get board approval, confirm whether you need an alteration agreement, and obtain any requisite city permits. Hey, nothing worth having comes easy, right? Say you want to renovate your co-op, and want to take out a radiator in the living room to free up wall space. We typically hear of New Yorkers complaining about no heat in winter, but there are many who understand the sweltering hell their apartments can turn into, especially in older buildings. This is the case for one co-op shareholder, who writes to Brickunderground.com in this week's Ask an Expert: "How would I go about [getting rid of the radiator]? Would it affect the property values?" One of Brickunderground's experts offers sound advice: "If it's not too late, include the radiator removal as part of the renovation proposal you submit to the co-op board. Indeed, your building's alteration guidelines may specifically address radiators, and the board may have addressed a similar issue in the past." If you get the board's blessing, don't throw the radiator away. Keep it on hand in case "you or a future buyer wants it reinstalled," and make sure a licensed and insured plumber removes the radiator and caps the pipe. 

Disputing Space When It's Not Inside Your Apartment

Written by Richard Siegler and Dale Degenshein on March 09, 2015

New York City

Who has the right to use ancillary rooms directly outside the service door of a specific apartment? The answer should be simple, but it rarely is. In Green v. Board of Directors of 880 Fifth Avenue Corporation and Francis L. Mitterhoff, the parties were faced with the classic question of whether the offering plan or historic use prevails.

The property at 880 Fifth Avenue was converted to cooperative ownership in 1947. Ronald Green purchased the shares allocated to Apartment 17E in 2001. Apartment 17F was owned first by Irving Schneider (since 1970) and then, in 2011, by defendant Francis Mitterhoff. There were two rooms that were located just outside the service entrance of 17E and had "17E" written on the doors. They were, at least initially, intended to be used as a maid's room and bathroom for 17E. When he purchased the shares for 17E, Green was told that those two rooms had been, at some point, transferred to Schneider.

Who has the right to use ancillary rooms directly outside the service door of a specific apartment? The answer should be simple, but it rarely is. In Green v. Board of Directors of 880 Fifth Avenue Corporation and Francis L. Mitterhoff, the parties were faced with the classic question of whether the offering plan or historic use prevails.

The property at 880 Fifth Avenue was converted to cooperative ownership in 1947. Ronald Green purchased the shares allocated to Apartment 17E in 2001. Apartment 17F was owned first by Irving Schneider (since 1970) and then, in 2011, by defendant Francis Mitterhoff. There were two rooms that were located just outside the service entrance of 17E and had "17E" written on the doors. They were, at least initially, intended to be used as a maid's room and bathroom for 17E. When he purchased the shares for 17E, Green was told that those two rooms had been, at some point, transferred to Schneider.

Disputing Space That Is Outside the Four Walls of Your Apartment

Written by Richard Siegler and Dale Degenshein on March 09, 2015

New York City

Who has the right to use ancillary rooms directly outside the service door of a specific apartment? The answer should be simple, but it rarely is. In Green v. Board of Directors of 880 Fifth Avenue Corporation and Francis L. Mitterhoff, the parties were faced with the classic question of whether the offering plan or historic use prevails.

The property at 880 Fifth Avenue was converted to cooperative ownership in 1947. Ronald Green purchased the shares allocated to Apartment 17E in 2001. Apartment 17F was owned first by Irving Schneider (since 1970) and then, in 2011, by defendant Francis Mitterhoff. There were two rooms that were located just outside the service entrance of 17E and had "17E" written on the doors. They were, at least initially, intended to be used as a maid's room and bathroom for 17E. When he purchased the shares for 17E, Green was told that those two rooms had been, at some point, transferred to Schneider.

Disputing the Space When It's Outside the Four Walls of Your Apartment

Written by Richard Siegler and Dale Degenshein on March 09, 2015

New York City

Who has the right to use ancillary rooms directly outside the service door of a specific apartment? The answer should be simple, but it rarely is. In Green v. Board of Directors of 880 Fifth Avenue Corporation and Francis L. Mitterhoff, the parties were faced with the classic question of whether the offering plan or historic use prevails. 

Serving on a board, not even necessarily as its president, requires a lot of time and work. Because it can be a very demanding role, you often, though not exclusively, see board members who have retired from their fields and can dedicate themselves to the smooth running of their buildings. One of the perks of being retired, however, is the ability to take a look at New York in the winter and say bye-bye to treacherous sidewalks and mucky slush pools. And if you had the means, wouldn't you take off to Florida or warmer climes while this nuisance weather finally gives way to spring? Well, that's what one board member in a New York City co-op does. He regularly takes a three-month trip to Florida during the winter. Lucky fellow! But here's the thing. Despite being on a holiday, he doesn't shirk his board-related responsibilities. So when the board has a meeting, he participates via conference call. And understandably, because he could easily be difficult and simply be absent, he is listed as "present" when he calls in. It's clear that someone on the board has an issue with marking him present, because one of his fellow board members writes to Ronda Kaysen in this week's "Ask Real Estate" column in The New York Times: "A neighbor suggested including him in the meeting through Skype" and he wonders whether doing so "is this truthful and legal." No good deed goes unpunished, eh? Well, Kaysen astutely recognizes that although the board member may not be physically present, it sure "sounds as if he is there in spirit." She adds that Skype is a terrific idea, offering real-life examples showing how others use video conferencing effectively, and noting that it would be an improvement over a conference call particularly if there are ever any presentations with visual aids. "Unless the proprietary lease expressly forbids conference calls as a method of conducting board meetings, it would not be untruthful to count him present, so long as he can hear the other board members throughout the meeting," concludes Kaysen. "Present means participating," adds Robert J. Braverman, a lawyer who represents condo and co-op boards, who's had to resort to video conferencing himself. It's a brave new world, and some flexibility is to be considered as we adapt to a changing landscape where people have busier and busier schedules — until we figure out that cloning thing, anyway.

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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