New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

Hate dealing with secondhand smoke in your co-op or condominium? As an attorney I often hear complaints from co-op board and condo association members about the extra costs incurred as a result of heavy smokers. Staff sweep up cigarette butts day after day, boards hire outside vendors to steam clean upholstery, curtains and area rugs and the windows must be washed more frequently. The problems are even worse if smokers throw cigarette butts off the balconies. 
 
Costs aside, condo and co-op board members are feeling pressure from residents about secondhand smoke permeating a building, especially where there is a central heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) system.  In one recent example I learned of a lung cancer survivor that resides next to a heavy smoker — the secondhand smoke presents a very real threat to his welfare.

Last January, Villas on the Bay, a 42-unit condominium in East Moriches, Long Island, switched to Fairfield Properties, a larger property manager than the one it formerly had. The 30-year-old community had capital improvements on the horizon and thought Fairfield could get them better prices.

Denis Leary was with me when we had an authentic New York moment across from the Hayden Planetarium. I was doing a short segment with him that was part of an online campaign we did. We had a permit.

So I have this camera guy and Denis is dressed as [his movie character] Police Captain George Stacy. And I'm asking him questions and he's talking about how he needs help, how the public has to help him to find Spider-Man.

A guy comes out of the building: sneakers, shorts, all sweaty, athletically obnoxious Wall Street type. Very New York. He's saying to me, "Why are you filming in front of my building? I'm the chairman of the board of this building!" It was a co-op on the Upper West Side.

Board Service: Here's Why It Takes So Long for Co-ops to Approve Your Buy

Written by Bruce Robertson. One in an occasional series of real-life stories by board members about serving on co-op and condo boards. on July 03, 2012

New York City

"FINALLY!" That's the feeling many buyers have when it's time to close on their co-op apartment. As a co-op shareholder and a residential real estate broker doing business in my own building from time to time, I always find it challenging to answer buyers and sellers when they ask, "Why is it taking so long to get through the approval process in your building?"

Barbara Hubshman, a co-op shareholder at 1010 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, sued her board, each individual member, the managing agent and others, claiming that they failed to maintain the building, as required by the proprietary lease — and tried to conceal from residents and possibly governmental agencies dangerous conditions that existed in a the building's fireplaces and flues. In fact, she claimed, the board even went so far as to encourage residents to use their dangerous fireplaces even though the board knew there were problems with the chimney.

The condo apartment's occupant, a middle-aged man living alone, had a severe case of Collyer's syndrome. The apartment was littered with papers and garbage and wholly unsanitary. How unsanitary? There were bottles filled with excrement stored throughout. The odor in the hallway and on the floor was horrendous. The apartment was a constant source of roaches.

Water

Water rates are one thing that buildings can count on. In May, the New York City Water Board set the rates for fiscal year 2012-2013, pegging water rates to rise 7 percent. One change is that the city is ending the so-called flat-rate frontage program, which set a water rate based on th

Most condo boards that attempt to collect common charges from delinquent unit-owners are faced with essentially three choices – enter into a payment plan with the defaulting resident, sue for money damages or foreclose. 

The problem with the payment-plan option is that when a unit-owner misses a payment, the board must start an action, which takes time and money. This is really just delaying the inevitable. If a board decides to go straight to court (Small Claims or otherwise), the board may succeed in getting a judgment on the outstanding common charges, but would have to begin consecutive actions in order to keep collecting the common charges as they continue to accrue. Also, collection on the judgment(s) may be impossible. This starts a cycle of continuous legal bills and unpaid common charges.

A monthly column by HABITAT's editorial director.

Let's call the super Pete, and the only other thing I'll tell you about him is that he's honest, hardworking, and knowledgeable. Oh, yes, and I've known him for 25 years. When he complains about something, it isn't idle talk.

At this moment, he was pretty incensed: "This guy," he said, referring to another super he knew, "shouldn't have gotten that job."

With interest rates at record lows, many apartment owners and shareholders are looking to refinance their loans. That means copious amounts of paperwork, along with e-mails, phone calls, and faxes. But what does it mean for the board?

Some buildings take the position that if the bank is willing to lend the money, the board is willing to sign off on it without looking at the financials. Considering the shaky state of banking in recent years, some professionals suggest that a prudent board should take steps to protect the property's financial health.

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